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7 Cognitive Factors that Raise the Risk for Workplace Injuries

Cognitive errors are a common cause of workplace injuries and deaths. Recognizing the seven most common types of cognitive errors is essential for protecting workers from preventable accidents. When employers fail to recognize the risks of cognitive errors, they are negligent in their duty of care to their employees. 

1. Improper Planning

Improper planning at any level of an organization can cause a wide range of safety-related problems. This includes elements of a business responsible for the purchase of materials, maintenance of tools, management of equipment, etc. When employers fail to plan, they are planning to fail and it’s often workers who pay the price for these easily avoidable managerial mistakes.

2. Lack of Hazard Recognition

Hazards need to be proactively recognized and addressed before they cause injuries or wrongful deaths. When pre-job safety briefings, hazard analysis, and training materials aren’t distributed, disaster is just waiting to happen.

3. Failure to Monitor Hazards

Workers under the stress of busy work schedules operating in fast-paced work environments can ignore or fail to recognize known safety risks. As mental overload increases, the risk of a serious accident increases exponentially.

4. Lack of Information

Incomplete information can cause managers to make poor decisions. Whether on a remote job site or on the factory floor, managers who don’t have complete information about safety conditions on the worksite, the status of tools, training of employees, etc. are at considerable risk of making errors in judgment that can cause injuries or claim lives.

5. Deviations from Planned Operations

Deviating from plans or altering procedures can cause a chain reaction of deadly events. Common deviations include omitting a step in the production process, neglecting a step in a maintenance task, etc.

6. Failing to Assess Consequences

Safety problems are frequently spotted by employees. However, many fail to connect the hazard with the potential consequences. Examples of this include employees who see an open container of chemicals and opt not to close the container even though they know a toxic spill or fire is possible. Many workers’ compensation claims involve instances where subtle changes could have prevented the accident.    

7. Workplace Fatigue

Workplace fatigue is a common cause of personal injuries and wrongful deaths in the workplace. Exhausted workers are not operating with all of their mental faculties. Exhaustion reduces the individual’s ability to recognize risks and take appropriate steps to prevent a potential injury to themselves or a co-worker. 

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