Human Error

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Security ranked a close second 51 percent as a cause of server hardware, OS and application outages. Other causes of downtime include software bugs and flaws 29 percent ; inadequate server hardware 22 percent ; and complexity in configuring and provisioning new applications 21 percent. Business decisions also play a pivotal role in exacerbating or mitigating downtime.

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Factors include: failure to allocate the necessary funds to upgrade systems and applications; failure to provide crucial training and certification for IT and security administrators; and failure to implement computing policies and procedures such as performing regular backups and having a comprehensive disaster recovery DR plan in place. External business factors, like regulatory compliance violations in finance, agriculture, healthcare and transportation, can result in on-site inspections and litigation, forcing organizations to shutter operations for days or weeks before the situation is resolved.

The prevalence of technologies like virtualization, cloud computing, mobility and the Internet of Things IoT , which link servers, applications, devices and people, potentially heighten the risk and severity of downtime occurrences.

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  5. Post-outage remediation is time-consuming and costly. And that happens frequently. This can perpetuate human error, given the proliferation and complexity of configuring and deploying new technologies. Security is part and parcel when it comes to downtime.

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    8. The proliferation of mobile devices, endpoints and IoT deployments means that the attack surface has grown commensurately. Businesses now have many more potential vulnerabilities and entry points into their systems, servers, applications and devices. Security professionals and IT administrators have much more to monitor and manage.


      External hackers are now more organized and sophisticated—they pick and choose their targets and hammer away until they succeed. Internal threats, such as disgruntled employees or corporate espionage, also present a real danger. Corporations must also track and repel an assortment of ever-more pernicious and pervasive security threats including viruses, ransomware, malware, phishing scams, bots, trojans, brute force attacks, Denial of Service, attacks on firewalls, switches and unified communication systems.

      Another thorny aspect of security is that some vendors—particularly niche market application vendors—sometimes take weeks or even months to acknowledge and respond to security flaws in devices and applications. The longer the lag time before the vendor releases a patch, the higher the risk that organizations may experience a successful penetration. Software and hardware failures still cause unplanned downtime, although technology advances in the last decade have increased the inherent reliability of software, server hardware and its underlying components.

      These capabilities are designed specifically to handle compute-intensive workloads such as databases, data analytics and AI. And built-in security helps organizations identify and thwart security threats. Another common cause of unplanned server downtime is uninterruptible power supply because it can take the servers and applications down. Hard drive failures, particularly in aging hardware over three and a half years old , are another persistent cause of server and application crashes.

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      Companies that overload their servers without retrofitting or upgrading the hardware to accommodate larger application workloads are asking for trouble. Unplanned downtime can also occur when IT administrators update drivers, firmware and applications—especially if the new software or drivers contain myriad new features.

      There are two ways to prevent human error from affecting performance. The first is to stop people from making mistakes avoidance or keeping the mistake from impacting interception the system. This technique includes design, automation, reduction of exposure time, error proofing, training, etc. For training to be most effective, it has to focus on concepts education and not just practice and procedures.

      Stopping mistakes from occurring has proven difficult as humans invariably find different ways to go about performing their tasks, bypassing interlocks or aids and just plain making mistakes. That does not mean giving up on prevention as it does have benefits and reduces some of the possibility and potential for making errors. Another aspect of human error is that the error may be made by another person upstream from the producer's activities.

      These are latent defects errors. The process itself may fail and cause the producers to fail. Designing systems with an understanding of recovery time is also important. Consider an example of the Soyuz 11 capsule. On its return to earth, at the capsule separation stage, a pressure equalization value prematurely opened, venting the internal atmosphere.

      This took about 45 seconds. To manually close the valve took 60 seconds. There is evidence that the crew attempted to close the valve, but events overtook them, and they perished. The design should have taken this into account so that the manual operation could be completed before total loss of breathable air occurred.

      But errors are going to be made, and error avoidance is not "foolproof," so the next step is critical in optimizing performance—minimize the consequences of the errors. Error tolerance can be achieved in a couple of ways. The next element in managing human error is making the organization and its systems resilient. That means there is a built-in mechanism to deal with error, and changing conditions effectively while recovering from adverse effects to quickly return to "normal" operations seamlessly. Agile resilience has five elements: Leadership, culture, people, systems, and the work environment.

      Resilience begins with a vision set by the leadership. The organization must select the right people and provide the resources to devise the systems that foster resilience. Leadership must also establish the acceptable level of risk and the "right" balance between risk taking and risk avoidance. Leadership must create a climate where it is okay to make mistake and, once made, ensure that lessons are learned and disseminated throughout the organization. A resilient culture is built on four pillars.

      These are trust, purpose, empowerment, and accountability. Such an organization has a strong sense of purpose that flows vertically and horizontally to all the employees. It encourages self-directed teams that innovate and communicate cross-functionally. The four pillars bind the organization into a cohesive, innovative, purposeful group with a sense of commitment to action problem resolution and win-win thinking, with a passion for excellence.

      Definition of 'human error'

      The core of any organization is its people. The organization must select the "right" people, who are motivated, have the courage to challenge the process, are willing to work toward a common goal, share a common vision and purpose, and are willing to overcome obstacles and barriers. The organization must provide the timely information and resources which will facilitate effective decision making and problem solving. Systems in a resilient organization have an open structure that allows for the flow of information and resources.

      Such systems foster innovation and agility. The systems and subsystems are integrated and aligned with the organization's goals and objectives. It enhances risk assessment and selection. It allows for effective planning and strategy implementation. It supports and rewards innovation, cooperation, enhances flow, and creates value. The work environment in a resilient organization is flexible and conducive to learning from one's mistakes.

      Types of human error

      It is designed so as to minimize latent defects in the systems. The strategy, objectives, goals, and metrics are integrated so as the accomplish excellence. Performance management has taken on urgency in the realities of the 21 st century. The traditional business models and management approaches that have worked well in the past cannot be used to solve the problems of today Einstein. It is these very tools and techniques that have gotten us to where we find ourselves now. The more productive approach is to identify the challenges, define the problems, face reality, stop treating the symptoms, dispel the myths, assess the organizational system and people constraints, foster integration, communicate a compelling vision, move away from command and control, foster trust, empower the people, and lead, lead, and lead.

      Dive into thought-provoking industry commentary every other week, including links to free articles from industry experts. Discover practical risk management tips, insight on important case law and be the first to receive important news regarding IRMI products and events. Request Demo Demo. Home Expert Commentary. Peter G. Figure 1: Organization and It's Operational System Performance Management Traditionally, performance has been managed by setting goals for employees producers to achieve.

      The Human Error Factor The impact of human error on organizations is far-reaching in terms of productivity, customer service, quality, teamwork, decision-making, execution, injury, and loss.

      Human error » NOPSEMA

      As examples: In , in Little Rock, Arkansas, 53 contract workers were killed during a fire at a Titan missile silo. In , in a construction site disaster at a power plant in West Virginia, a cooling tower collapsed, killing 51 workers. In , in Bhopal, India, a Union Carbide plant explosion released cyanide gas, killing 20, people.

      In , the Piper Alpha oil platform explosion killed and resulted in a major oil spill. The Phillips explosion in Pasadena, Texas, killed The , Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska was a major environmental disaster.

      Webinar: Human Error Prevention: The Psychology of Why People Make Mistakes

      In , the Hamlet Chicken processing plant fire in North Carolina killed 25 workers. In , the Texas City BP refinery explosion killed 15 workers. In , a sugar refinery explosion in Georgia killed 42 workers.