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What is the real cost of Human Error?

We hear that up to 95% of all incidents are caused by Human Error. Does this mean that Human Error always leads to someone getting hurt?

The short answer to this question is “No!” Not every incident causes someone to get hurt, often the outcome is a ‘near miss’.

The relationship between these outcomes was captured in the 1930s by Herbert Heinrich who stated that in a workplace, for every major injury, there are 29 accidents that cause minor injuries and 300 accidents that cause no injuries. This became known as Heinrichs law which suggested a relationship between near misses, minor injuries and major injuries because they shared common root causes. Organisations need only reduce one to affect the other.

More recent data shows that although this approach does reduce minor injuries it does not have a directly proportionate effect on major injuries and certainly does not take into account major incidents where there are often multiple injuries.

Does Human Error still play a part?

Human Error possibly plays a bigger role than we have ever previously understood but not just in terms of injury and harm.

Error inducing factors in the workshop which may lead to an injury and can be seen as ‘Active Failure’. Similar error inducing factors in the Engineers office or the latest board room meeting on cost reduction may lead to a different kind of incident, elsewhere and much later on, and can be called ‘Latent Failure’.

The biggest ongoing financial impact on any organisation however, especially in the current climate, may be these same error inducing factors but which lead to duplication, rework, rewrite, modification, wasted time, effort and materials most of which remain a hidden cost. These are crippling losses which happen every day!

Not all error leads to harm…but all error leads to loss!

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