How to Prevent Human Errors

Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in Continuous Improvement, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement | 0 comments

Many processes are susceptable to human error, especially in service processes.  The good news is that most of these failures can be prevented by process or system level solutions.

There are three main categories of human error:  inadvertent errors, technique errors, and willful errors.  Inadvertent errors are usually the result of a mistake of some kind.  Technique errors are related to the process procedure, the lack thereof,  and to poor training.  Willful errors are deliberate attempts to sabotage the process.

Inadvertent errors are typically characterized by a low incident rate, with little or no advanced warning that a failure is about to happen.  There is no predictable pattern to these errors.

Inadvertent errors can be prevented in a number of ways.  Fool-proofing, or poka yoke, is one of the tools for preventing these errors, where a fundamental change is incorporated to the design of the part or process to prevent the error from occurring.

Automation is another common way to minimize the occurrence of inadvertent errors.  Bar code readers are now used in many industries to prevent part numbers, customer information, or product data from being incorrectly typed into a database.  Using more ergonomic chairs, keyboards, and office layouts to improve the work environment is another approach that can make improvements.

Technique errors are characterized as being unintentional and are usually isolated to a few workers.

Technique errors can be minimized using the same methods as inadvertent errors or through training.  Training can be combined with visual aids and process documentation to help workers.

Willful errors are characterized and nonrandom and difficult to detect.  They usually involve a single disgruntled worker and are extremely rare in practice.  The best prevention in this case is to engage and empower the workforce.

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