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Can Human Error be avoided in the construction sector?

Can human error be avoided in the construction sector?

There is a general assumption that if we’d removed the ‘human element’ most accidents wouldn’t have happened – but is this just wishful thinking?

Worldwide, the construction sector is one of the most dangerous. Only 5% of employees in the UK work in the construction sector but it accounts for 27% of fatal workplace injuries and 9% of reported major injuries (HSE figures).  Did you know that the main type of injury reported by employers are: slips, trips and falls (23%), lifting and handling (22%), falls from height (19%) and struck by an object (11%).  

These statistics make accidents seem commonplace and raise the argument that regulations around prevention are lax. This is not the case, as many organisations such as the HSE regulate almost every aspect of the standard construction working environment.

Independent research also shows that accidents are, in fact, quite rare. The well-known “Swiss Cheese” model suggests that although (in an ideal world) defences against accidents will always remain in place, there are ‘holes’ in these defences that keep moving and an accident happens when the many layers momentarily line up and permit a ‘clear path’ to an accident. The main message of this model is to communicate that the likelihood of the holes in defences lining up at any one time is relatively low. This suggests that reported accidents should be equal between human verses technology controlled behaviours, but it is generally accepted that 80% of accidents are due to human error.

The reasoning behind developing technology to reduce risk seems fundamentally obvious. The most recent example of this, for the construction sector, was Volvo's Construction’s equipment machines of the future where they’ve “set four key technology challenges that they call: Triple Zero and 10x: zero emissions, zero accidents, zero unplanned stops and 10x higher efficiency”. This is because explained Elfsberg, they believe  “autonomous machines will increase safety in hazardous working environments and eliminate the possibility of accidents caused by human error.”

In the meantime, what can be done to reduce risk in the construction workplace?

The Skill – Rule – Knowledge model suggests that three elements are key to reducing accidents.

Firstly, Skill - turning high-risk activities into sensory-motor action so the actions become second nature and do not require active thought. 

Secondly, Rule – clear rules are set, demonstrated and adhered to. This often requires a thorough risk assessment.

Finally, Knowledge – clear and efficient training so that employees are aware of the risks and know how to handle the situation if they arise.

Here at iHASCO, we have proven success in delivering training to the construction sector, including essential health and safety training. Browse our courses or alternatively, we are so confident that you'll love our eLearning platform, we're willing to provide you with a full access trial for up to 3 courses!

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