Reducing human error in construction and engineering

17th January 2020
Source: HTL Group
Posted By : Anna Flockett
Reducing human error in construction and engineering

Human error is inevitable, but it is not uncontrollable. Many steps can be taken to reduce the risk of human error in the workplace. For the Construction and Engineering sector, these methods can be the difference between a completed project and a stalled process. It can also be the difference between a project going off without a hitch and one that results in injury.

In this article, we’ll explore two major facets to this problem: the human side and the technological side, and how businesses can address both to reduce the likelihood of human error.

Skill-Rule-Knowledge Model

One of the most tried-and-tested methods of reducing the danger of human error is the Skill-Rule-Knowledge model. As the name suggests, this model is comprised of three elements:

  • Skill — the point in which an activity becomes second nature, without a need for active thought.
  • Rule — the act of following demonstrated guides.
  • Knowledge — the need for training so a worker can identify and respond to risks.

Of course, even with these practices in place, there’s a variable that will always maintain some level of risk in any process: people. People have lapses in judgment, a bad day in the office or distracted for a second that results in the whole process changing in an instant.

However, technology has come a long way and now that variable can be reduced further to continue in reducing risk with tool innovations.

Changing manual processes to automated ones

Controlled Bolting

Technology is improving so many aspects of the working world, and Engineering isn’t any different. There have been many advances in recent years that, primarily, focus on shifting processes from the hands of people to the hands of machines.

There is also a middle ground, where machines aid people and make processes safer by eliminating the likelihood of an injury occurring. This is done by allowing the worker to stand at a safe distance while mechanisms are moving. For example, controlled bolting is a much safer process compared to manual bolt tightening.

Manual production inevitably takes more time, and as more time passes for a worker, levels of fatigue increases as well as the risk of accident or injury. By using a more controlled process like hydraulic torque wrenches, the process of loosening and tightening bolts is not only much faster, but safer for workers than a physical, manual process.

Bob Fogerty, Technical Director at HTL Group, noted the benefits of controlled bolted, saying, “Controlled bolting is a perfect example of innovative technology that lowers risk in the workplace, providing the people are properly trained by professionals. It is up to employers to ensure that all operators undergo the appropriate technical training, to certify them as highly-skilled and knowledgeable in all aspects of controlled bolting.”

This falls in line with the Skill-Rule-Knowledge model that sites with personnel on adhering to and is designed to help maintain safety at work.


In a similar vein, the introduction of drones into the Construction sector has shifted more processes from human hands into automated ones. Despite the sector’s reputation for being slow in picking up new technology, between 2018 and 2019 the industry saw a 239% increase in the use of drones in the workplace.

It’s no surprise either, given the technology can be used across several areas within Construction, including land surveying, waste monitoring, and security improvements. These machines can also be deployed into areas that would otherwise prove a risk to workers, such as high altitudes or uneven terrain. After all, a broken drone can be replaced!

As the increase in health and safety expands across industry sectors, companies are looking to reduce risk to a minimum. With a focus on how technology can reduce the human element of error, the Construction and Engineering sector is adapting to technology.

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