Human Failure at Work Errors and Violations

Accidents can occur through people’s involvement with their work, it is estimated that up to 80% of accidents may be attributed, at least in part, to the actions or omissions of people (Health and Safety Guidance 48, 2003). The arrangements which are currently in place to prevent these errors and violations can be looked into and how effective the current strategies for minimising risks are. This article will look at how these could occur and the basic methods used by RB Health and Safety Solutions Ltd in carrying out a study of an organisations Failures, taking into account the relevant legal requirements and HSE guidelines. If this were a study carried out for a client I would conclude with an action plan to ensure that the recommendations put forward can be implemented effectively.

Errors and Violation have been classified by the HSE Guidance HSG 48 as:


Skill based.

o Slips of action

o Lapse of memory


o Rule based

o Knowledge based







Errors and Violations

“A human error is an action or decision which was not intended, that involved a deviation from an accepted standard, which leads to an undesirable outcome.” (HSG 48, 2003) The document looks into reducing errors within the workplace and continues by explaining that violations are a deliberate deviation from a rule or procedure. The table below identifies how these failures can be categorised.

Types of Human Failure, as identified in HSG 48



Human Failures —> Errors  —> Skill Based Errors —> Slips Of Action

—> Lapses of Memory

—> Mistakes      –> Rule Based Mistakes

–> Knowledge based mistakes

—> Violations  —> Routine

—> Situational

—> Exceptional


Errors will undoubtedly have a number of contributory factors and the types of errors will differ depending on the organisation and goal of any study of human error carried out; often it is useful to divide these into sub headings such as task, environmental, organisational and individual factors. The table below shows how these contributory factors could be caused in an organisation

Task factors  — Environmental — Equipment factors/Organisational — Individual Factors


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