Understand The Principles Of Human Performance To Reduce Human Error

Error-likely situations are predictable, manageable, and preventable

Human Error in GMP

Human performance errors are the chief cause of quality and production losses in many industries. Luckily, variables that can affect human behavior, including procedures, training, and the workplace environment, can be manipulated—assuming you understand human behavior and the psychology of error. Learning the psychology of error means starting with the importance of motivation and attention, facts about human error, and the impact of culture and habits, says industry expert Ginette Collazo. Collazo then suggests moving on to understanding how human error is controlled, root determination processes, and the six-step method for error prevention. Collazo covers these tactics in her virtual boot camp for Audio Solutionz, “Human Error in GMP Environments—Virtual Boot Camp.”

Even Good People Make Mistakes

Understanding the principles of human performance can help organizations identify where errors are likely to emerge and work to prevent them, writes Teresa Mullen for Crisis Response.

“The principles challenge our traditional ‘Bad apple’ thinking and make us take stock of our perception of humans at work, the errors they make and the way an organisation can set people up for success or failure when these employees are sent out to work for them,” she says.

In 2009, the Department of Energy identified five basic principles of human error in a publication called “Human Performance Improvement Handbook.” They are:

  • People are fallible, and even the best make mistakes
  • Error-likely situations are predictable, manageable, and preventable
  • An individual’s behavior is influenced by organizational processes and values
  • High performance is due to encouragement and reinforcement from leaders, peers, and subordinates
  • Events can be avoided through an understanding of why mistakes happen and by applying the lessons learned from past events

Rasmussen’s Three Levels Of Behavior

In 1983, Danish engineer Jens Rasmussen defined three levels of behavior in an attempt to minimize human errors.

“He began by characterizing human performance in a familiar environment as goal-oriented, and rule-controlled, and he then proposed three qualitatively different levels of cognition in which qualitatively different types of information circulate and qualitatively different types of decision are made,” writes chartered engineer Derek. J. Smith.

The three levels are:

  • Skill-based behavior, a low-order cognitive processing path which is largely unconscious
  • Rule-based behavior, which involves following subroutines in a familiar work situation
  • Knowledge-based behavior, which relies on a mental model which is sophisticated but time-consuming.

Knowing these levels and when each kicks in is the first step in developing targeted training programs, and that knowledge can be applied to almost any industry. Training to those levels can result in improved safety, wrote researchers studying Rasmussen’s model for minimally invasive surgery applications.

Understand Human Error For A Great Safety Advantage

Lifetime Reliability recommends three methods of human error detection:

  • Inspect and check: Test samples against a standard to see that they conform
  • Work process audit: Inspect the process and gain feedback so you can better control it
  • Point-of-origin inspection: Assess if the input is error-free before using it

As Ginette Collazo explains in her two-day presentation “Human Error in GMP Environments—Virtual Boot Camp,” there are a bevy of error reduction tools, metrics, and KPIs. Finding the right one is the ticket to improved manufacturing outcomes.

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Jeff Schmerker
About Jeff Schmerker
Jeff has extensive professional experience writing on a variety of topics, from pharmaceutical research to environmental history. He has published more than a half-dozen books, and he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and restaurant reviewer. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife and son.