What is human error?

The construction industry experiences the most frequent workplace accidents of any industry.
Among fatal accidents, the overwhelming leading cause are falls, followed by accidents due to construction equipment and the like. Accidents caused by human error by workers, such as falling without wearing safety harnesses and collisions with heavy equipment moving in reverse, are happening at an alarming rate.

What is human error, anyway?
Human error refers to careless mistakes caused by people, such as dialing the wrong number, closing a data file on a computer without saving it, and accidentally mixing up the gas and brake pedals. Human error refers to actions that bring about negative consequences, despite that not being the intention, due to misunderstandings or mistakes.

A near-miss collision that one airline company experienced is said to be the spark that led to the frequent use of the expression “human error” in Japan. The Aviation Bureau’s air traffic controller made the mistake of reading the flight names of two aircraft in reverse order, and the two aircraft came within such extraordinary proximity to one another that they almost collided. Since the cause of the incident was the all too human reading mistake by the air traffic controller, it was reported that “human error was the cause of the incident.” (Reference *1)

In the aviation and railway industry where “slight mistakes” by workers can potentially lead to major disasters, such as with the near-miss incident, safeguards against human error have been addressed vigorously for some time. Recently, these initiatives have been expanding to the construction industry, as there are frequent workplace accidents that appear to be attributable to human error by workers.

Everyone makes mistakes

There are some intriguing reports on human error.
According to one study, the rate at which humans commit errors is reported to be one time in 20 when turning a phone dial, and one in 100 times for simple, repetitive tasks (Reference *2) .These rates are surprisingly high, don’t you think? This demonstrates that there is a limit to human attention. No matter how careful and cautious a person is, they succumb to human error due to fatigue, misperception, and other reasons.

Understanding the facts that everyone makes mistakes and that the rate at which humans make mistakes is quite high is the starting point for safeguarding against human error. Safeguards are premised on these facts in the aviation and railway industries.

In the construction industry — the industry with the most workplace accidents of all — it is exceedingly important to come up with safeguards against human error that capture the fact that everyone makes mistakes in a positive light.

(Reference *1,*2,*3*6)