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Keeping human error to a minimum in engineering and construction

Published: 7 February 2020 - Rachael Morling

Human error cannot be completely eradicated from a workplace. However, it's vital that it is managed and reduced, as human error can cause serious damage. In the construction and engineering sector, human error can be costly in so many ways. It can make the difference between a project's success or failure.

To control the impact of human error, it's important to consider two key variables: the human element and the technological element.

Using the Skill-Rule-Knowledge Model

The Skill-Rule-Knowledge Model is one of the strongest ways to manage human error effectively. As the name suggests, this model is comprised of three elements:

• Skill — the point in which an activity becomes second nature, without a need for active thought.

• Rule — the act of following demonstrated guides.

• Knowledge — the need for training so a worker can identify and respond to risks.

Naturally, people remain an unpredictable element in this model. People have lapses in judgment, a bad day in the office or distracted for a second that results in the whole process changing in an instant. However, technology has come a long way and now that variable can be reduced further to continue in reducing risk with tool innovations.

Why automated processes can help

Controlled Bolting

Technology is improving so many aspects of the working world, and Engineering isn’t any different. There have been many advances in recent years that, primarily, focus on shifting processes from the hands of people to the hands of machines. There is also a middle ground, where machines aid people and make processes safer by eliminating the likelihood of an injury occurring. This is done by allowing the worker to stand at a safe distance while mechanisms are moving. For example, controlled bolting is a much safer process compared to manual bolt tightening.

Manual processes demand a longer time, which requires people to work longer and become tired. This can then lead to mistakes. By using a more controlled process like hydraulic torque wrenches, the process of loosening and tightening bolts is not only much faster, but safer for workers than a physical, manual process.

Bob Fogerty, technical director at HTL Group, explained why controlled bolting can help: “Controlled bolting is a perfect example of innovative technology that lowers risk in the workplace, providing the people are properly trained by professionals. It is up to employers to ensure that all operators undergo the appropriate technical training, to certify them as highly-skilled and knowledgeable in all aspects of controlled bolting.”

This shows how the Skill-Rule-Knowledge Model can be effectively used.


Over in the construction sector, automation has flown in on drones! Despite the sector’s reputation for being slow in picking up new technology, between 2018 and 2019 the industry saw a 239% increase in the use of drones in the workplace. It’s no surprise either, given the technology can be used across several areas within construction, including land surveying, waste monitoring, and security improvements. These machines can also be deployed into areas that would otherwise prove a risk to workers, such as high altitudes or uneven terrain. After all, a broken drone can be replaced!

Companies must deal with risk management as a priority. With a focus on how technology can reduce the human element of error, the construction and engineering sector is adapting to technology.




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