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Stereotypic Human Error in the Operation of Underground and Surface Mining Equipment

Underground » Health and Safety

Published: May 04Project Number: C12012

Get ReportAuthor: Jim Joy, Simon Wedgewood, Ron Groenland | University of Qld, BMA

In the early 1980's a number of large-scale industrial disasters gave renewed impetus to the study of human factors, and in particular, how it relates to human error. Investigations of these disasters highlighted the need to understand and manage the interface between people and their work processes.

Inadequate attention to human factors in mining equipment has also lead to severe accidents. Although obviously not to the scale of major catastrophes involving the public, inadequate consideration of human factors in designs can easily result in fatalities.

Human error is identified as a causal factor in 80 to 90% of all incidents and accidents. Machine operating errors are common and occur for many reasons. In some cases, design features may trigger human error in machine operation. Stereotypic error is one type of human error that can be affected by machine design.

Stereotypic error occurs when an operator at the controls of a machine executes an incorrect, intentional, albeit probably subconscious, action. The action is initiated by the person based on a previously learned stereotype. The resulting output or movement of the machine is incorrect and not as the operator intended due to the stereotype being inappropriate for the particular situation. Miss-operation of a turn signal on a European car when the driver is most accustomed to an Australian car is a good example. The location of the turn signal and windscreen wipers are often reversed. The driver, without conscious thought, reaches for the previously learned location of the control. In doing so, the error occurs.

Large mining equipment have significant control systems that often vary in design between similar machines and, in some cases, the same model of the same machine. Some equipment has dual or remote controls that may also induce a stereotypic error. Experienced operators may be more likely to make errors related to these differences than inexperienced operators.

The aim of this project was to identify the relevance of the stereotypic error issues and identify potential stereotypic error designs or operating practices, especially those where the implications of operator error could be severe, in order to assist with site level and equipment designer / supplier identification of the unacceptable risk. In addition, the project produced an issue identification resource and risk assessment method to help manage any unacceptable stereotypic issues through site review, incident investigation and future purchasing.

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