MARCH 2019 HEALTH & SAFETY
● Eyes not on task
● Mind not on task
● Line of fi re
● Balance,traction, grip
Hazards Hazards with a
States (cause) Errors (which causes) Less Risk (to become) More Risk
but until we are at the stage of airbag-deploying workwear that
senses a fall as it is happening, these types of injuries will persist.
Critical states of mind
Why and when do people get hurt? For the vast majority, it is
about states of mind or body such as rushing, being frustrated
with a situation, being tired or fatigued or simply having done
something so often for so long that we become complacent and go
We are hardwired to function subconsciously the vast majority
of the time. Thus, complacency becomes pervasive once we get
used to doing something. Indeed, technology can even exacerbate
complacency: if we rely on tech to keep us safe, what happens when
it fails or is absent?
The four critical errors
From a safety point of view, we can simplify mistakes into four
critical errors: Eyes not on Task, Mind not on Task, putting oneself
in the Line of Fire or losing Balance, Traction and Grip. These
four errors account for over 90% of all injuries (and a lot of other
non-safety mistakes too). With a mere four errors in play and those
errors most likely to happen when we are in one of four states, the
problem of reducing error becomes easier to tackle – and with it the
chance to reduce injury levels.
To reduce critical errors, we can therefore ingrain new skills and
habits that will account for these states and allow us to avoid
making critical errors. Using the same types of neural pathways that
make us go on autopilot, we can give our brains failsafe techniques
for when we are most likely to make an injury-causing error.
One of the fi rst techniques we get people to practice is to
observe those around them. If we see someone in one of the four
states – rushing, frustrated, looking tired or on autopilot – it helps
us to bring ourselves into the moment, keep out of harm’s way
and also refl ect on our own actions.
Another good technique is to refl ect on the small mistakes
that we make and look for a link to one of the four states. Such
refl ections can turn out to be hugely consequential.
We also work to help people recognise when they are in one of
the fi rst three states: rushing, frustration and fatigue (combatting
complacency requires a diff erent approach). The breakthrough
comes when people learn to both amplify and listen to their own
inner voice telling them that something feels wrong. We call this
technique Self-Triggering – catching oneself in one of those states
before an error or injury occurs.
All this takes time and practice and will become, if anything,
more relevant as technology’s impact grows and new equipment
and industries become a reality. Whatever happens, the human
factor will remain critical in Industry 4.0. Alongside advancing
engineering and technological solutions that address risk, we will
always need to help people develop the personal safety skills that
allow them to deal with the new world, whatever that ends up