What Is Human Error? 2 Types to Watch out for in the Workplace

Businesses that manually handle multiple processes increase their risk for human error, as well as its repercussions.

When systems go unchecked, human errors can accumulate and cause discrepancies, requiring additional expenses to reconcile damages. Mitigating these risks prevents unnecessary expenditures and promotes data reliability. Therefore, companies should understand the different forms of human errors to implement effective preventative measures.

What is Human Error?

Human error is the event of an unwanted result due to neglect, lack of preparation, or a mistake made by an individual. These errors can occur when planning and executing tasks and can be the result of several influences, such as distractions and stress.

If an error is present in the planning process, more human errors will likely occur during the execution, as proper execution is dependent on accurate planning. Errors occurring in the planning stage prevent the business from reaching their desired outcome.

Depending on the workplace, these errors can lead to various consequences, from inaccurate data to additional expenses due to miscalculations or overordering. Within data management, human errors can reduce information accuracy, which directly affects how businesses produce demand forecasts and inventory reports. Without accurate data, companies do not have access to actionable insights or performance reports, limiting their overall functionality and scalability.

2 Types of Human Errors

Depending on the root cause of an error, businesses can prevent mistakes through thorough preparation or quality checks. However, in order to implement proper preventative measures, management needs to understand the different types of human errors.

Skill-Based Error

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Unintentional actions or negligence are known as skill-based errors and occur when distractions are present during high-routine tasks. These diversions happen internally through the individual's thought process or due to external factors.

Typically, individuals who make human errors have the skills to complete the task but become less involved or attentive to details due to repetitive actions. Even the most experienced and educated workers are susceptible to skill-based error. In fact, employees with experience are more likely to encounter these errors because they already have familiarity and muscle memory, requiring less concentration.

There are two leading causes of skill-based human errors-

1. Memory Lapse
Memory lapse refers to forgetting or misplacing a task or procedure. This generally occurs after the planning stage and before execution, when an individual forgets to complete a task.

2. Slip of Action
A slip of action occurs during execution when an individual commits an unintended act, due to being on autopilot or skipping a step. Common slip of action examples include-

  • Pressing the wrong button
  • Missing a step in a sequence
  • Transposing numbers
  • Switching directions
Slips and lapse errors can be reduced by using checklists, implementing quality checks, minimizing interruptions, maintaining active supervision, and limiting fatigue.


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Contrary to skill-based errors, mistakes refer to issues resulting from inadequate planning, due to inexperience or inaccurate information. Therefore, people with limited knowledge and experience with a specific task tend to make more mistakes. Mistakes are not intentionally committed and should not be met with discipline or admonishment.

The main variations of mistakes include-

1. Knowledge-Based
Knowledge-based mistakes result from trial and error cases in which people have limited knowledge of how to execute a task. For example, an inventory ordering system is programmed to place purchase orders according to reorder points. However, if a user enters incorrect stock quantities or reorder points, the program will fulfill the order resulting in under or overstocked products. While an unexpected result occurred, the software performed the appropriate task with misinformation placed by an employee.

2. Rule-Based
Rule-based mistakes refer to occasions where an individual uses or disregards a particular rule, resulting in an unwanted outcome. While there are sets of principles established for procedures, some rules are exclusive to specific tasks and not others. Therefore, incorrectly applying such rules can provide unexpected results.

On the other hand, some rules may be outdated or incorrect, which also leads to adverse outcomes. This could be the result of utilizing incorrect data or failing to adapt to changes over time.
Many companies have utilized data integration and automation to eliminate human intervention altogether.

Automating processes allows software to take over repetitive tasks, such as calculating payroll, performing routine inventory cycle counts, and even sending marketing emails. With a system integrator, the information from these various solutions is automatically aggregated and available to users immediately. This eliminates the need for manual data consolidation, which is often susceptible to human error.

By minimizing human error within processes and data, companies can make effective business expansion decisions based on accurate insights.