According to recent studies, 80-90 percent of serious injuries are caused by human error. Today, employers emphasize the importance of safety and accident prevention and yet every year, many workers are seriously injured or die while on the job.
While many incidents may be caused by poor work environments or machine/equipment failure, other factors such as human behavior are likely to also play a key role. That doesn't mean the employee is to blame whenever an incident occurs, but rather, that underlying factors exist that may contribute to employees' unsafe actions.
Workers learn many habits throughout their careers and sometimes those habits can be dangerous. A few factors that contribute to human error in the workplace include:
Remember, the factors above may contribute to an incident, but that doesn't mean the employee is always at fault.
Let's use drug and alcohol use in the workplace as an example. Many employers are familiar with OSHA's recent improved tracking of work-related injuries and illness rule which addresses drug and alcohol testing requirements. That rule does not prohibit drug and alcohol testing. But it does say that employers must limit post-incident testing to situations where drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident AND where a drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.
For example, say a shelf was overloaded and its contents fell on an employee. In this case, the faulty shelving is the cause of the injury, not the employee's impairment. Now on the other hand, if the employee were weaving while he walked and used a forklift and crashed into the shelving, you may have reason to believe that substance abuse was the cause.
Employers must take caution before conducting post-incident drug tests and limit them to situations where drug use is likely to have played a role. In any case where incidents and even near-misses occur, try to identify where the employee may lack knowledge of safety protocol and train him or her accordingly.