We are only human, we all make mistakes

In May 2024, Health and Safety3 MinutesBy Kaye ByrneJune 17, 2024

Safewise consultant Kaye Byrn examines what to do when mistakes are made in business, and what procedures can be implemented to prevent them.

We all make mistakes, it is part of being human. Some mistakes can be more consequential than others. Hitting someone with a forklift can have more tragic consequences than leaving paperwork back at the yard.

Putting procedures in place to catch these errors and prevent unfavourable consequences is the responsibility of the business owner and manager. Mistakes are not made on purpose; mistakes occur from a lack of awareness, training, processes and complacency.

Here are two scenarios:

  1. A mechanic is operating beneath a truck. He motions to the truck’s driver to turn on the engine. It is done by the driver from outside the cab. The mechanic is severely injured when the truck runs him over while it is in gear.
  2. A forklift operator wants to drive through a truck’s parking space. The forklift operator turns on the truck to move it. Unknown to the forklift driver, the mechanic working under the truck quickly must roll out of the way.

What errors in judgement led to these incidents?

  • The vehicle is in drive. When performing maintenance on a vehicle, it is occasionally required to remove the handbrake and for the vehicle to be in gear.
  • From outside the cab, the truck is started. If the truck driver had been in the cab, he would have noticed the truck was in gear.
  • In both cases, when the truck is started, the mechanic is underneath it. In the second instance, the forklift operator is unaware of his presence.
  • The forklift driver is too preoccupied with his work to consider the truck’s purpose. What could have been done to stop the injury?

The obvious answers are:

  • take the keys out of the truck and store them in a safe place, such as the mechanic’s pocket;
  • if the keys are in the ignition, mark them with a “do not use” tag;
  • always start a vehicle from the driver’s seat, and;
  • make sure no one is underneath or behind the vehicle when it is started.

Every one of these safety measures establishes a framework to prevent human error. It would be best to check and ensure that nobody was underneath the vehicle. Using two or more of these decisions decreases the ‘fail space’ where errors exist.

People are going to choose the least resistance path. This must be acknowledged; the pathways must be identified, and the systems in place must safeguard the workers.