Types of Human Errors and How to Avoid Them?

In every aspect of our lives, from personal endeavors to professional pursuits, mistakes are an inevitable part of being human. However, when it comes to the workplace, the cost of human errors can be significant. These errors can lead to accidents, incidents, and potentially harmful consequences for individuals and businesses, whether due to slips, lapses, or mistakes. That’s why understanding the different types of human errors and implementing preventive measures is crucial to maintaining a safe and productive work environment.

In this blog post, we will delve into the various types of human errors and explore effective strategies for avoiding them. By identifying the root causes of these errors, such as fatigue, stress, distractions, or inadequate training, we can develop proactive measures to mitigate their occurrence. By fostering a culture of safety and providing the necessary tools and knowledge, we can empower individuals to minimize the likelihood of errors and promote a safer workplace for all.

Join us as we uncover the intricacies of slips, lapses, and mistakes and learn practical steps to prevent them. By incorporating these insights into your organization’s practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of human error and create a foundation for enhanced productivity, efficiency, and, most importantly, the well-being of your employees. Let’s embark on this journey toward error-free work environments and a brighter future.

Types of Human Errors

Human errors are a leading cause of accidents and incidents in the workplace. They can be caused by various factors, including fatigue, stress, distraction, and poor training. By understanding human error causes, you can take steps to prevent them from happening in your workplace.

There are two main types of human error:

  • Slips and lapses,
  • Mistakes
Human Errors

1. Slips and lapses

These are very similar in that they are caused by momentary memory loss, often due to a lack of attention or concentration. They are not related to training, experience, or motivation levels, and they can usually be reduced by redesigning the job or equipment or minimizing distractions. 

Slips are failures to carry out the correct actions of a task. Examples include using the incorrect switch, reading the wrong dial, or selecting the incorrect component for an assembly. A slip also describes an action taken early or late within a given working procedure. 

Lapses are failures to carry out particular actions which may form part of a working procedure. A fork-lift truck driver leaving the keys in the ignition lock of his truck is an example of a lapse, as is the failure to replace the petrol cap on a car after filling it with petrol. Lapses may be reduced by redesigning equipment so that, for example, an audible horn indicates the omission of a task. They may also be reduced significantly by the use of detailed checklists. 

How to Avoid Slips and Lapses?

There are a few things you can do to avoid slips and lapses:

  • Stay aware of your surroundings and be mindful of potential hazards.
  • Pay attention to your footing, and be sure to wear proper footwear.
  • Use caution when walking on wet or icy surfaces.
  • Be extra careful when carrying objects or activities requiring balance or coordination.
  • Take your time and avoid rushing.
  • If you feel tired or fatigued, take a break.

If you are in a slip or fall accident, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Even if you don’t think you are seriously injured, avoiding caution and getting checked out by a doctor is always best. Suppose you have suffered any injuries due to a slip or fall. You may also want to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal options.

What Is Human Error

2. Mistakes 

Mistakes occur when an incorrect action occurs, but the person involved believes the action to be correct. A mistake involves an incorrect judgment.

There are two types of mistakes

  1. Rule-based Mistakes
  2. Knowledge-Based Mistakes

1. Rule-based Mistakes

Rule-based mistakes occur when a rule or procedure is remembered or applied incorrectly. These mistakes usually happen when, due to an error, the rule normally used no longer applies. For example, a particular job requires counting items into groups, often followed by adding together the groups so that the total number of items may be calculated. If one of the groups is miscounted, the final total will be incorrect even though the rule has been followed.

2. Knowledge-Based Mistakes

Knowledge-based mistakes occur when well-tried methods or calculation rules are used inappropriately. For example, the depth of the foundations required for a particular building was calculated using a formula. The formula assumed clay soil was used to calculate the foundation depth in sandy soil. The resultant building was unsafe. 

Slip Lapse Mistake

The HSE has suggested the following points to consider when the potential source of human errors is to be identified: 

  • What human errors can occur with each task? 
  • There are formal methods available to help with this task. What influences are there on performance? 
  • Typical influences include time pressure, design of controls, displays and procedures, training and experience, fatigue, and levels of supervision. 
  • What are the consequences of the identified errors? What are the significant errors? 
  • Are there opportunities for detecting each error and recovering it? 
  • Are there any relationships between the identified errors? 
  • Could the same error be made on more than one item of the equipment due, for example, to the incorrect calibration of an instrument? 

Using instruction, training, and relevant information can reduce errors and mistakes. However, communication can also be problematic, particularly during shift handover times. Environmental and organizational factors involving workplace stress will also affect error levels. 

The following steps are suggested to reduce the likelihood of human error: 

  • Examine and reduce workplace stressors (e.g., noise, poor lighting), increasing the frequency of errors. 
  • Examine and reduce social or organizational stressors (e.g., insufficient staffing levels, peer pressure). 
  • Design plant and equipment to reduce error possibilities – poorly designed displays and ambiguous instructions. 
  • Ensure that there are effective training arrangements. 
  • Simplify any complicated or complex procedures. 
  • Ensure that there is adequate supervision, particularly for inexperienced or young trainees. 
  • Check that job procedures, instructions, and manuals are clear and updated. 
  • Include the possibility of human error when undertaking the risk assessment. 
  • Isolate the human error element of any accident or incident and introduce measures to reduce the risk of a repeat. 
  • Monitor the effectiveness of any measures taken to reduce errors. 
Human Errors Examples

How to Avoid Mistakes

One of the most common causes of accidents is human error. People make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes can have catastrophic consequences. Some errors are due to a lack of knowledge or experience, while others are careless mistakes. Either way, human error is one of the leading causes of accidents, and it’s important to be aware of the potential for mistakes when working with machinery or other potentially dangerous equipment.

There are a few steps you can take to help reduce the chances of human error causing an accident. First, make sure that you understand all the safety procedures and protocols associated with whatever task you’re performing. If you don’t understand something, ask questions until you do. Second, take your time and don’t rush. Rushing increases the chances of making a mistake. And finally, pay attention to what you’re doing. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted when performing a repetitive task. If you stay focused, you’re less likely to make a mistake.

Human error is unavoidable, but taking some simple precautions can help reduce the chances of it causing an accident. Stay safe out there!

Creating a culture where people feel comfortable reporting mistakes and near-misses is also important. Too often, people are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to be seen as incompetent or careless. But if we can create an environment where people feel comfortable admitting when they’ve made a mistake, we can help everyone learn from those mistakes and avoid them in the future.


In conclusion, human errors are unavoidable, but their impact can be minimized through awareness, education, and proactive measures. By understanding the different types of human errors, such as slips, lapses, and mistakes, and addressing their underlying causes, such as distractions, inadequate training, or complex procedures, we can implement effective strategies to avoid them. Creating a culture that encourages open communication, learning from mistakes, and continuous improvement is key.

By prioritizing safety, providing clear instructions, and designing work environments that reduce error possibilities, we can foster a safer and more productive workplace for everyone involved. Remember, while we can’t eliminate human errors entirely, we can take significant steps to mitigate their occurrence and create a safer, more error-resistant work environment.