Skip to content

Training: The best response to Human Error

Even in life sciences organizations with successful quality programs, minimizing human error is an ongoing challenge. Experienced people working on established processes sometimes make costly errors despite diligent efforts to avoid them. Even with the industry’s awareness of human errors, companies still frequently fail to substantively and correctly address them. The typical response to a human error is retraining, which often fails to produce the desired result. The reason: Studies show that a lack of training is responsible for only about 10 percent of the human errors that occur. While training typically is effective when there is a need for a new skill set or the implementation of a new task, it is not an effective response to a human error that is not caused by a lack of knowledge. In the pursuit of answers about what can be done (in addition to training) to combat human errors on the manufacturing floor, the Center for Chemical Process Safety conducted research on “high reliability” organizations. These are organizations that have succeeded in avoiding catastrophes in an environment in which accidents can be expected to occur because of high-risk factors and complexity, such as the chemical, aerospace and nuclear industries. This research revealed that 99 percent of accidents begin with human errors, but the root causes of these accidents are weaknesses within management systems. So, if human error is the cause, but lack of training is not the reason behind it, then what is? This is the reason why organizations need to get to the bottom of events and determine what is behind the errors being committed by operators. It takes investigatory tactics, including gathering data, conducting root cause analysis and also taking corrective and preventive actions to get to the real source of the human error and reduce it.