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Factoring Human Error Into the Safety Equation

According to U.S. and German data compiled by the International\r\nAssociation of Engineering Insurers, human behavior is largely\r\nresponsible for industrial accidents.

A recent study of the relationship between human behavior and occupational risks has determined that human error plays a more significant role when it comes to industrial safety as machinery safety equipment becomes more sophisticated and reliable.

According to U.S. and German data compiled by the International Association of Engineering Insurers (IAEI), human behavior is largely responsible for industrial accidents. However, the study suggests that the effects of human behavior can be controlled through attention to plant systems, structures and cultural differences.

"There is sufficient evidence to indicate that loss prevention can be influenced through human intervention during the life cycle of a risk," said Roger Cottell, managing director with Zurich Engineering in Great Britain, a member IAEI. "With effective risk management, exposure to a loss at an individual venture will be reduced, thereby reducing risk for the client and insurers."

To minimize risk, the study recommends that employers routinely conduct the following safety evaluations:

  • Formal risk assessment.
  • Risk-based inspection.
  • Human factors checklist.

By focusing on safety equipment and human error in these evaluations, it is possible to identify shortcomings and therefore, reduce risk. Likewise, as a means of identifying, monitoring and improving human factors in the workplace, introducing a categorized checklist based on the job, the individual and the organization can also pinpoint problem areas.

To minimize losses, the study recommends employers use the following human factors checklist:

  • Identify and analyze critical tasks.
  • Evaluate employees'' decision-making needs.
  • Balance human and automated systems.
  • Provide safety devices.
  • Use ergonomically designed equipment.
  • Provide appropriate procedures and instructions, with consideration of literacy of operatives.
  • Take environmental considerations, including noise, lighting, heat, access for maintenance, etc., into consideration.
  • Provide adequate tools and equipment.
  • Consider shift scheduling to minimize stress and health and safety effects.
  • Enforce effective communication, including considerations for shift hand over.
  • Match skills and aptitudes to job requirements.
  • Implement effective training systems.

Additional information pertaining to the study and suggestions on minimizing risk in industrial environments is available on IAEI''s Web site at

by Melissa Martin

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