Safety And The Human Factor: Why Workers Have Accidents

safety, workplace safety, accident prevention, workplace accidents, workplace injury

Understanding workplace safety and accident prevention really all comes down to context. Even though it might be somewhat easy to blame human error for the root cause of most workplace accidents, that's really just the beginning. With further investigation, you're likely to uncover many factors that contribute to any accident in the workplace.

The human factor, while not the cause of workplace accidents, is the key to finding out how workers' actions are influenced by other aspects of the workplace. When you evaluate interactions between all the elements of the workplace -- people, workplaces and management systems -- it makes understanding the worker's decision at the time of the accident more clear.

Once you know what guides workers' decisions and actions, you have the ability to put into place preventative measures to keep similar workplace accidents from happening again.

The Interaction Of Human Factors

Let's examine the interaction of three human factors: people, workplaces and management. Any reasonable number of the elements listed under each individual human factor has the potential to contribute to workplace accidents, creating a vast range of reasons for why accidents occur in the workplace.


Individual Factors

  • Knowledge
  • Expectations
  • Attention
  • Goals
  • Health
  • Fatigue
  • Age
  • Culture
  • Body Size
  • Strength
  • Stress, etc.


Workplace Design

  • Facility layout
  • Workstation configuration
  • Accessibility, etc.

Equipment Design

  • Displays
  • Controls
  • Interface
  • Feedback
  • Warning systems
  • Ease of use, etc.

Work Environment

  • Noise
  • Vibration
  • Lighting
  • Temperature
  • Chemical exposure, etc.


Systems Organizations Management

  • Organizations of work
  • Policies
  • Management decisions, etc.

Job Design

  • Work schedule
  • Workload
  • Task design
  • Job requirements, etc.

Information Transfer

  • Communication (written or oral)
  • Instructions
  • Labels
  • Signs, etc.

As you may now see, there are a lot of factors that, when added together, lead workers to act in ways that make sense to them based on the resources and knowledge available. These factors are portions of a larger whole that is the workplace system.

To ensure workplace safety, when an accident occurs it's extremely beneficial to conduct an investigation to ascertain all of the contributing factors. If nothing else, everyone has the opportunity to learn from certain missteps or mistakes so history doesn't repeat itself. That's a great dose of prevention in terms of keeping your workers safe.

However, the big picture here is that when you understand the context of workplace accidents and injury, you might change traditional practices in your workplace so the system of work is more compatible with the human factor. Transforming societal attitudes and systems towards human error could drive the advancement of workplace safety.

Ready to learn more about how to prevent workplace accidents from happening in your facility? Call 800-523-5367 or click on the button below to speak with a safety specialist at Arbill.