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Assessing Maintenance Safety: 12 Conditions that Contribute to Human Error in Maintenance

Posted under Blog by Nina Owen

June 18, 2019

Assessing maintenance safety should be top of mind for all asset-intensive companies.  Training should be provided to the entire maintenance organization to ensure safety for all employees.  It is important to understand what conditions can lead to accidents in order to help eliminate, or at the very least, remove elements of human error that can lead to accidents.

Gordon Dupont was working in Transport Canada’s maintenance organization when he identified twelve of the most common human factors that contribute to accidents; he called them the ‘Dirty Dozen’.

Since Dupont’s list was conceptualized in 1993, the Dirty Dozen has become central to Human Factors in Maintenance Training courses worldwide.

And despite massive developments in maintenance systems and monitoring over the last 26 years, it’s interesting to see how this list continues to be relevant. We certainly remain vulnerable to these human factors – but we can also manage these precursors in our work environment to avoid accidents.

Dupont’s Dirty Dozen:

  1. Lack of Communication
  2. Complacency
  3. Lack of Knowledge
  4. Distraction
  5. Lack of Resources
  6. Stress
  7. Lack of Teamwork
  8. Pressure
  9. Lack of Awareness
  10. Fatigue
  11. Lack of Assertiveness
  12. Norms

The purpose of Dupont’s list was to focus attention on the traits or conditions that contribute to human error, and paths to counter these.

12 Conditions That Contribute To Human Error In Maintenance And How To Counter Them

While some preventative measures are fairly obvious, even the best technology can’t eliminate these risks due to the fact we still require some human interface to systems – even the automated ones.

1. A lack of communication is easily avoided by ensuring individuals have all the information they need to complete their job before, during and after a task -especially at a handover of shifts.

2. It’s easy to become complacent when performing repeatable tasks, so avoid working from memory and boost accountability in the team as much as possible. Sign-offs are important here; don’t skip a thorough check or sign-off anything as completed without verification.

3. Encourage questions, offer continued professional development, provide check-lists and user guides to eliminate human error due to lack of knowledge.

4. Removing the risk of distraction falls to management. Wherever possible, provide workers enough time to complete a task and eliminate unnecessary distractions such as noise from the work environment.

5. Fewer mistakes are made if there’s enough time, people, tools, experience, and resources available to get the job done.

6. Keep an eye out for symptoms of stress like changes in mood, poor concentration and memory, lack of judgement, and absences from work due to illness or depression.

7. A variety of skills are required in a maintenance group, so it is important that a healthy culture of teamwork is fostered through regular communication and clearly-defined individual responsibilities and shared objectives.

8. Pressure can be alleviated with a lot of the other counter factors here: by providing enough time, resources, communication required for the task.

9. Make sure individuals don’t become too siloed in their role and maintain awareness of their contribution to a broader process or the wider organization to benefit communication, quality standards and commitment to their work.

10. Ensure individuals know the signs of fatigue and perform checks on work when they’re tired.

11. Encourage team members to be assertive enough to express their concerns, share their experience and insights for the benefit of productivity and culture.

12. Establish healthy norms – a culture of teamwork, communication, asking questions and sharing experience, and test procedures for efficacy so your workers are at their most productive.

The relevance of Dupont’s Dirty Dozen demonstrates that even the most fool-proofed process, the best in software systems and safety measures can’t prevent human error in the maintenance department – we can only remain cognizant of these risks, and optimize systems and processes to reduce it.

To learn how VIZIYA can help from a systems perspective, reach out to one of our experts here.


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