Human Factors Causing Accidents

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: February 1, 2024

What Does Human Factors Causing Accidents Mean?

Human factors causing accidents is a term that encompasses all the elements contributing to a workplace accident that can be directly attributed to an operator, worker, or other personnel.

These factors can include willful violations of safety rule as well as inattention, fatigue, and intoxication. They also exclude a large number of non-human factors that contribute to workplace incidents, such as equipment malfunctions, inclement weather, and slippery walkways.

While human factors should be considered as part of any accident investigation, placing the blame entirely on workers is generally seen as counterproductive.

Safeopedia Explains Human Factors Causing Accidents

Humans are fallible and prone to errors and mistakes. Fatigue and sickness can further exacerbate the problem, leading to bad decisions or poor judgment. In other cases, overconfidence can result in a worker disregarding safety rules or circumventing safe work practices.

Some human factors that commonly contribute to workplace accidents include:

  • Memory lapses (including forgetting a step in the work process or a safety measure)
  • Impaired judgment
  • Inattention or distraction
  • Negligence of basic safety rules
  • Lack of experience
  • Skill level inadequate for the task performed
  • Arrogance or overconfidence

Two Types of Human Factors

Human factors contributing to accidents can be divided into two categories: errors and violations.


Errors are unintended actions. They are usually mistakes or lapses that occur during repetitive tasks, such as pressing the wrong button or missing a step in a procedure. These errors can be reduced by improving the design of the system.

Other errors are mistakes in judgment. These are more common in new or unexpected tasks or when workers have not received adequate training.


Violations, on the other hand, are intentional actions. They can be acts of noncompliance, circumventions of safety procedures, or shortcuts. Although intentional, violations are not always motivated by malicious intent. Rather, workers may be attempting to finish the job more quickly or compensating for poorly designed equipment or procedures.

Implementing Preventive Measures

A strong safety culture encourages workers to comply with safety rules.

Safety programs and procedures should also take human fallibility into account. Many situations that give rise to human error are predictable, manageable, and preventable. Understanding what leads to mistakes and applying lessons from past incidents can help organizations avoid future incidents.

Additional measures that can reduce the likelihood of errors and violations include:

  • Training and awareness
  • Supervision and monitoring
  • Feedback and reports
  • Frequent inspections and audits
  • Skill development
  • Education

Ready to learn more? Check out our free webinar: Unlocking the Full Potential of Behavior-Based Safety Observations!

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