Human Error: Defend Against Failure with a Checklist

5 Min Read
Human Error: Defend Against Failure with a Checklist

Running any business involves a lot of things, and keeping track of all of them can be difficult. It’s not uncommon for employees to overlook certain aspects of their responsibilities. 

The problem is that even the simplest oversight can result in costly errors. Mistakes, depending on their magnitude, can be detrimental to a company’s well-being. For this reason, you should always look for ways to minimise human error as much as possible. 

The right tools, such as checklists, can help reduce the frequency of mistakes. Before you learn how to do that, understand some aspects of errors and what they mean for businesses.

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What is Human Error?

It refers to failure resulting from the action or inaction of an individual. Errors mean that planned actions don’t generate the intended outcomes. Regardless of training, experience or skills, any person can commit mistakes. The causes vary widely. Unfamiliarity is one. Some situations might be critical but rarely occur, such that workers don’t know how to handle them properly.

Errors are most likely to occur in highly repetitively tasks where an employee can lack the mental stimulation to put in the necessary effort. Mistakes can happen when information quality is poor. Despite an employee’s skills, if they are not working with accurate data, then errors can occur frequently. Some mistakes happen due to physical challenges. Fatigue, speed working, and distractions are some elements that affect individuals physically and can lead to high error rates.

The Consequences of Mistakes

Even what appears as inconsequential errors can have catastrophic effects on a company. Human failure can have different consequences depending on the contribution of a particular task towards the bottom line.

Monetary losses are the most common issues resulting from human failure. Mistakes can cost an organisation a lot of money, especially if they are irreversible. Imagine a worker missing or adding a decimal point in a financial report or missing a step during production. Such mistakes can cause a company to bleed funds, particularly if they are not discovered quickly.

Errors can compromise workplace safety. Employees can get complacent with security and safety measures after a while. You might find some workers barely implement the most basic safeguards.

Loss of reputation and legal problems are other consequences of human-caused mistakes. Some errors can affect customers, suppliers and shareholders, leading to lawsuits and regulatory complications.

How Checklists Can Stop Errors

Creating a checklist can contribute to fewer mistakes in several ways.

A big contribution of checklists is the ability to break down complex tasks.

Professionals have to deal with various complications at the workplace, regardless of the sector. Despite an employee’s abilities and efforts, delivering on objectives reliably, safely and correctly is getting harder. However, approaching tasks in smaller chunks helps. When you divide your to-do list into bite-sized pieces, you can see the entire picture better. Having small items on your checklist minimises the risk of forgetting part of the task.

Companies can create structure using checklists. In cases of mundane, repetitive tasks, you can establish processes for employees to follow. Any worker who has to handle similar duties can work from the same checklist. It means that everyone will be following the same process, hence providing consistency, and consequently, structure.

Checklists can enhance communication between colleagues, thus decreasing mistakes. Some errors occur because employees don’t communicate with each other. Team members on a project might be on different wavelengths, causing a disconnect that leaves room for all kinds of mistakes. With a checklist, employees can include the people to who they have to talk to. Checklists are shareable, which makes it easy to have everyone on the same page.

Mistakes can be costly for businesses, which is why you should avoid them through whatever means. Checklists are effective in preventing human error. They allow employees to focus on certain tasks and ensure that they don’t overlook some steps.

Human Error and Checklists

Breaking down processes into individual tasks on a checklist can benefit all industries and professionals as the workplace is becoming more complex than ever. Breaking down these complex tasks into smaller, simpler steps can have remarkable effects on the reduction of mistakes by human error.

Atul Gawande researched how breaking down complex tasks into tick boxes on a checklist can save lives and stop significant reduce human errors in the workplace. He was primarily focused on the health industry and reducing infection and deaths in surgery.

“Checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realised.” Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right. 

His research into using checklists in healthcare showed “47% reduction in deaths from 1.5% to 0.8% and a 36% reduction in major complications from 11% to 7% using this checklist.”

The research was so well received he was asked to create a checklist for WHO. The WHO Surgical Safety Checklist help reduce human errors and increase communication within the surgery.

The NHS (National Health Service) in the UK has also adopted a very simple checklist as an effective intervention for preventing human error in the workplace.

Checklist Size

Incorporating checklists can optimise business processes and operations for greater efficiency. But size does matter!

Checklist size is important Atul Gawande research showed that keeping it short is key.

 “Keep it between five and nine items, which is the limit of working memory.”

Keeping the checklist short forces complex processes into smaller more essential, steps. It is better to create multiple checklists tailored to different business processes with clearly defined circumstances for use.

Prevent Human Error with Checkify

Checkify is a checklist software that offers the ability to create checklists, assign tasks, track individual tasks, analyse data, collaboration and accountability for all your business processes. 

Know how a task should be done by creating a guide for team members to follow on how each task should be performed to get the best possible results but also stopping important tasks from being missed!

Checklists can reduce human error within the workplace.

Prevent Human Error with a Checklist

Create checklists of business processes so important tasks are not missed!

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