Observe the kinds of errors people make. Categorize them (decision, compliance, communication, procedure and proficiency are good categories). Determine their frequency and consequences. Reason: This process will let you know your training priorities.

In one airline study, researchers found flight crews averaged two mistakes every flight hour. More than half of these mistakes were “compliance errors.” But the vast majority were harmless. Only 2% resulted in “undesired aircraft states,” such as being off course, near misses, and unplanned loss of altitude.

Meanwhile, “proficiency” errors accounted for 5% of mistakes. But 75% of the time, these errors resulted in the airplane doing things it shouldn’t.

Proficiency errors suggested a need for stronger individual technical training. Compliance errors meant the airlines need to look at their culture of compliance.

Bottom line for you: Prioritize training by consequence.

Source: Helmreich, Robert L., On error management: lessons from aviation, British Medical Journal, Vol. 320, March 2000, pp. 781 – 785.

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