March 24, 2021 | Mark Paradies

10 Wrong Ways to Stop Human Error


Do You Have a Plan to Reduce Human Error?


When you calculate how much human error costs your company, you may want to do more than just forgive those that make errors. You may want to find and fix the root causes of human errors. You may even want to become proactive and stop errors before they happen. You may want to develop a plan to reduce human error.

How do you develop a plan to reduce human error?

FIRST, you need to understand why people make mistakes. The science of human factors that helps determine the likelihood of making a mistake. The Safeguards you can put in place to stop or reduce human error. And the ways to analyze human errors to find their root causes (TapRooT®).

SECOND, you need to put this knowledge to work to develop a plan (a program) to improve human performance and, perhaps when you get good enough, to stop human error from causing major accidents (costly mistakes).

But many people start off with the wrong plan to stop human error. Why is it wrong? Read on for the 10 common practices that often are included in these “wrong” plans.

The 10 Wrong Ways to Stop Human Error

Many people embark on the wrong ways to stop human error. These wrong ways include one or many of these 10 common practices:

  1. Tell people to try harder to not make mistakes.
  2. Tell people to be more careful.
  3. Retrain people when they make a mistake.
  4. Train people when they are likely to make an error and tell them to be careful not to make an error.
  5. Train people when errors are likely and give them dozens of error prevention tools and tell them to monitor their own performance and use the right tool to stop the error.
  6. Put up signs with safety slogans.
  7. Punish people for making mistakes (make an example of them).
  8. Write a detailed procedure that any fool could follow.
  9. Hire fools to use the procedure.
  10. Punish fools for not following the procedure.

You may laugh when you read the list above. We don’t think the list is all that funny. Why? Because we have seen too many people using these techniques to try to improve human performance. We’ve heard people say:

“If only people would try harder.”

“If only people would be more careful.”

“If only they would follow the procedure, they would not make a mistake!”

“They should have spotted the hazard and implemented a better control.”

If trying harder isn’t the answer, what is? Read on for some suggestions and ways to learn to stop human error.

Stopping Human Error

There are human factors principles that can be applied to greatly reduce or stop human error. I started learning these principles at the human factors program at the University of Illinois while I was getting a master’s degree. I practiced these principles while working for Du Pont and then developed a process and then started my own company and developed a set of tools to analyze human error and develop effective fixes to stop repeat incidents (the TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis System).

After using and teaching this system for nearly 30 years, I decided there had to be something more. A way to teach people to proactively prevent human errors. A way to STOP human error before an accident happens.

I started thinking this was even more important to do NOW when I saw people who had no formal human factors training, no certification in ergonomics or human factors (I’m a Certified Professional ErgonomistCertificate #85), teaching people to use systems to improve human performance that violate human factors principles.

Thus, I used my knowledge of root cause analysis and human factors to create a new system to reduce human error (improve human performance). I wrote a book about it (Stopping Human Error) and developed a course to teach people about the methods and to help them develop a plan to stop human errors (Stopping Human Error).

Mark Teaching Stopping Human Error

We’ve taught two of these courses so far and both received excellent reviews. We are teaching the next course as a hybrid course – both live (at the Knoxville Convention Center) and virtually (on the web) – on June 14-15.

What’s in the Stopping Human Error Course?

Here’s the Stopping Human Error Course outline…

Day 1 (9:00am to 5:00pm)

  • Foundations of Improving Human Performance
  • Resilience and Safeguards
  • Using TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis for Reactive Problem Analysis
  • Using TapRooT® Human Performance Best Practices Proactively
    • Human Engineering
    • Procedures
    • Training
    • Communications
    • Management System
    • Work Direction
    • Quality Control
  • Stopping Normalization of Deviation
  • Pre-Job Hazard Analysis
  • Pre-Job Briefs
  • Personal Safety Assessment

Day 2 (9:00am to 5:00pm)

  • Applying Critical Human Action Profile Proactively
  • Human Performance Improvement Technology
    • Procedure Use/Adherence
    • Place Keeping
    • Independent Verification
    • Three-Way Communication
    • Pre-Job Brief
    • Personal Safety Assessment
    • Observation and Coaching
    • Post-Job Brief
    • Concurrent Verification
    • Questioning Attitude
    • Stop-Think-Act-Review
    • Time Out
    • Attention to Detail
    • Management of Change
    • Error Traps and Precursors
    • Validate Assumptions
    • Do Not Disturb Sign
    • Conservative Decision Making
  • Admiral Rickover and “Facing the Facts”
  • Which Tools Will Work Best for You?
  • Sample Plan/Suggested Plan
  • Customizing Your Plan
  • Present Your Plan, Benchmarking, and Feedback

With the exercises built-in to try the techniques, this is an active, quick-moving 2-day course.

You will leave this course with a clear understanding of methods to improve human performance and a custom plan to apply those methods at your company to achieve great gains in safety, quality, or operational and maintenance performance (all of which depend on human performance).

Here is an episode of TapRooT® TV from 2019 where I talk about the Stopping Human Error Course and the 2020 Summit…

Course participants receive the book, Stopping Human Error, a $99.95 value, as part of the course materials. In addition, participants receive a certificate of completion and a 90-day subscription to TapRooT® VI Software, our dynamic cloud-based software that computerizes the TapRooT® Techniques.

Register for the Course or the Course and the 2021 Summit

You don’t want to miss this opportunity to develop a plan to improve human performance (stop human error) at your company. The Stopping Human Error Course is being held just before the 2021 Global TapRooT® Summit in Knoxville, TN. The Course is being held from June 14-15. The Summit is being held from June 16-18. Both are being held in a live format and virtually.

To register for the course ONLY, see:

Stopping Human Error Training Registration

To register for the course AND the Summit, see:

Course AND Summit Registration

You will SAVE $200 off the course price when you register for both the course and the Summit at the link above.

To get more information about the Summit (which has a track titled Stopping Human Error Best Practices), see:

More Summit Information

Knoxville Convention Center
Courses & Training, Human Performance
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