How to Lower Risk and Human Error in the Workplace

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Errors are expensive. The average cost of injuries and fatalities at work was estimated to be £4.9 billion a year in the UK in 2013/2014, and a great deal of this cost was borne by the employer. However, injuries and fatalities also come at a financial and practical cost to the employee too and impact on their quality of life.

Yet, for all that the figure of £4.9 billion pounds a year is huge, it doesn’t actually take account for the cost of rectifying non-injurious or fatal problems, such as basic design errors, mismanagement in the workplace or employees simply not knowing what’s required of them. Moreover, it doesn’t factor in the cost of a damaged reputation or loss of trust in a company following human errors, which undoubtedly sends the total ‘cost’ of risk and human error sky-rocketing.

So, what can be done to lower risks and human error in the workplace? Here are a few ideas…

Lowering risks

Understand the governance
The first thing you need to do to lower risk is to understand the rules and regulations that apply to your industry. Read up on what your obligations are as an employer and take steps to ensure you’re complying with everything that’s expected of you, such as designing risk management plans and delivering high quality training to your employees.

Focus on prevention

Next, remember that prevention is better than cure! It’s essential that you create a structured risk management program to ensure that you’re able to properly manage risks in your workplace. You can use tools to help you do this (such as the kind of software provided by airsweb), and doing so will help you to identify common hazards, implement best practices and define a hierarchy of controls to lower risks in the future.

Develop plans and procedures for dealing with hazards, conduct audits and gather data on safety and efficiency.

But have a good response plan

For all that you’ll plan things properly, the occasional risk or error will occur. Log these risks, file reports and follow up on incidents to ensure that the same problems don’t arise time after time.

Reducing human errors

Encourage responsibility rather than culpability

It’s deeply unpleasant for employees to feel like they’re being watched and just waiting to slip up, so communicate good work practices and talk about human error in such a way that emphasizes the importance of ‘creating a high-reliability workforce’ as opposed to ‘reducing human error’. Framing it like this is more positive and more likely to get your employees on board with your ideas.

Next, identify good working practices and regularly reinforce them. By highlighting what good processes look like and what poor processes look like, your employees will be able to identify behaviors that can lead to human errors and take steps to avoid them or change course.

Create the right culture

Finally, help your employees to feel comfortable reporting incidents rather than hiding their mistakes. Discussing incidents in a way that’s supportive rather than accusatory will help to raise awareness and encourage employees to change their behavior so that the likelihood of human error occurring is reduced.

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Contributing author for TechSpective.