Human factors briefing note no. 12 – Human error and non-compliance

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  • Published: July 2011
  • REF/ISBN: 9780852936085-12
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Status: New

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We rely on human operators to reliably perform the tasks they are best suited to in human-machine systems. Examples include physical manipulation of tools and components in maintenance tasks, or problem-solving in troubleshooting tasks. However, humans will make errors – errors of judgment, mistakes, etc. The management of human reliability is therefore the management of human failure.

Why human error and non-compliance?

‘Human error’ is often cited as a cause of incidents in investigations, but in reality there are different types of human error, collectively described as human failure. The different types of human failure themselves have different causes and require different types of remedial action. It immediately becomes clear, then, that ‘human error’ by itself has little meaning when cited as a cause of an incident, and in order to address human failure issues, including both errors and non-compliances, it is important to recognise the different types of human behaviour and human failure, and why they take place. The means of eliminating or reducing one type of failure will not necessarily work for other types of failure.

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