Critical Errors: What to be Aware of and What to Avoid

In the work place, many daily oversights or mistakes don’t have any lasting effect. This isn’t to say eliminating smaller hazards isn’t important, but they aren’t the type of thing that keep people from working for several weeks, cause severe injury, or put a life at risk. However, the mistakes that can produce these kinds of results we call “critical errors.” Critical errors often occur when slips, trips, drops, or accidents with machinery occur, and the mayhem they leave behind can range from broken bones to months of inspection and claims to even death.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of critical errors:

The States: Several states of mind have been identified as those in which people are most likely to make critical errors. They are, primarily, people who are in a rush, who are frustrated, who are fatigued, or who are overly complacent. When an individual will find themselves in some of these states is more predictable than in others, but in any event identifying when workers are likely to feel these ways ahead of time is important; let’s take a look at each one.

Rushing: Outside of anything besides maybe football, rushing is not a good thing. When you’re in a hurry you’re more likely to skip steps and make mistakes. In the production world, this can mean that product quality suffers or items are produced that are defective or unsafe. Taking it a step further, it can mean bypassing safety measures, whether intentionally or not, sometimes as an attempt to save time. This can then lead to injuries or even death. Luckily, rushing is fairly predictable when looking at a person’s schedule: Approaching deadlines or days that cause someone to fall behind in work are prime causes for rushing.
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Frustration: Frustration, like rushing, can also be a fairly predictable state. If an issue has been building for some time, it’s not inconceivable that it will come to a head and cause problems at some point down the road. Sometimes people are already frustrated when they come into work, but choose to or have to work anyways, in these cases the state is identified before work even begins. On the other hand, bad news, a flippant remark, a problem in production, and any other number of triggers can bring about frustration in a quick, unexpected manner as well.

Fatigue: While schedules vary from day to day, it usually isn’t too difficult t predict when fatigue will be a factor. Extremely early mornings, late afternoons, and late nights are the three times of day tiredness and fatigue are most likely to appear. For most people, this means that they will be at work during at least one of these times each day. Scheduling breaks and snacks around these times and staying hydrated can help to combat these periods.

Complacency: Compared to the other three critical error-inducing states of mind we’ve identified, complacency is harder to self-diagnose. In most cases, complacency occurs during tasks that are automatic to us. This can very dangerous when we let that auto-pilot mentality take over during tasks like driving or the operation of equipment. While it’s hard to see in yourself at the time, looking forward and noting which upcoming tasks in your schedule might lull you into complacency is a good way to be actively thinking about it before a problem occurs.