How do we prevent human error?

In light of the underlying reasons why human error occurs, let’s consider some safeguards to prevent workplace accidents that are caused by human error.

【1】Is it difficult to implement safety precautions at construction sites?

It is said that safety precautions are difficult to implement at construction sites.
The reason for this is that construction sites have characteristics such as:
1. Work that changes on a daily basis
2. Professional contractors from a multitude of industries on site
3. Standalone, built-to-order production
4. Short employment periods
(Reference *3)

In other words, a construction site is a place where a variety of business operators and workers (2, 4) do a variety of different work (1) in the same place and under the same conditions at a one-time-only site that will never be made again (3). Consequently, the following characteristics exist when implementing safety precautions: there are limits to putting in place the proper safety equipment, there are limits to creating manuals for work processes, it is difficult to communicate and coordinate between business operators and workers, and sustained education and training of workers poses difficulties.

Nevertheless, these characteristics offer us tips when drawing up safety measures for construction sites. Indeed, this is because the very reason that the construction industry experiences the most workplace accidents of all industries stems from these characteristics. For example, we begin to see tips for safeguards, such as having workers call out to one another to avoid unsafe behavior regarding dangerous locations where safety equipment could not be set up, and spending more time on or devising ways to communicate and coordinate between business operators and workers.

【2】Specific countermeasures

In terms of specific safeguards to prevent human error, there are largely the following two approaches: (Reference *3)

・Safeguards on the safety equipment front so that no problems arise even when human error occurs.
・Enhancing safety management initiatives on site to prevent human error from occurring.

Safeguards on the safety equipment front so that no problems arise even if human error occurs.

There are limits to setting up the proper safety equipment at construction sites. However, on the premise that everyone makes mistakes, setting up proper safety equipment to the extent possible is an extremely important and effective safeguard.

Of the 12 categories of human error, lack of attention, the shortcut/omission instinct, situation behavior instinct, panic, misperception, and declining alertness due to monotonous tasks in particular represent states in which one’s attention momentarily fails to function properly, so putting in place safety equipment that does not rely on human attention for the final guarantee of safety is an effective safeguard.

Specific examples of safeguards include equipment such as safety harnesses, safety nets, hand rails to prevent falls, wearing a variety of protective equipment, curing caps and bending for joint bars, and a variety of limiters (safety valves, gas alarms, earth leakage circuit breakers, contact prevention for heavy machinery, etc.).

Enhancing safety management initiatives on site to prevent human error from occurring.

Limits to setting up the proper safety equipment and creating manuals of work processes are characteristics of construction sites. Consequently, enhancing safety management initiatives on site is an extremely important safeguard to prevent each and every worker from committing human error.

Of the 12 categories of human error, with respect to lack of experience, disregard for risk, lack of communication, group flaws, decline of function in middle-to-old age, and fatigue, it can be argued that the conditions for susceptibility to error already exist within the worker. Safety management initiatives that either prevent these kind of dangerous conditions from forming, or detect them early on and enable them to be remedied are effective.

The attitude to leverage the power of the group is also crucial when it comes to safety management activities.
It goes without saying that each and every worker being highly alert of safety and acting cautiously is critical. However, there are limits to an individual’s ability to focus. Also, the power of the group is effective, even in enhancing the safety awareness of individuals, such as by sharing reports on near-miss incidents at morning meetings on site, for example.

The following is a list of specific examples of safety management initiatives to prevent human error.
・Work skills education and training
・Education and training regarding health and safety
・Gathering and sharing near-miss incidents
・RP activities (“Risk prediction activities”)
・Working in pairs/teams on dangerous tasks, not alone
・Calling out to one another on site (pointing out dangers, etc.)
・Education and training for foremen, health and safety directors, etc.
・Clear safety instructions (answering who does what)

In addition to these, a variety of initiatives can be devised based on the circumstances of each respective business and construction site.



With that, we have wrapped up our look at workplace accidents and human error in the construction industry.
There is quite a well-known true story regarding safety known as “One in 10,000”. (Reference *2)

A woman who lost her husband in a workplace accident at a steel company told the factory’s Labor Relations Director, who was visiting to pay his respects, the following: “The death of my husband is a loss of one person out of 10,000 for the factory, but in our home, I… lost everything in my life.” The wife’s comments struck the Labor Relations Director hard, and he reportedly realized, from the bottom of his heart, that each and every person is irreplaceable and that workplace accidents are absolutely intolerable.

There are workplace accidents that we can eliminate by preventing human error and lives that we can save. Everyone makes mistakes, so it is important to create an atmosphere on site that allows individual human error to be compensated for, not to mention safety equipment and enhancing safety management initiatives.

(Reference *2,*3,*5,*7,*8)