THE NEUROSCIENCE OF PERSONAL SAFETY
USING THE BRAIN AS PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Why do so many people still get hurt at work even though we do so much to try and keep them safe? For instance, it is estimated that workplace incidents cost the Australian economy $60.6 billion per year, representing 4.8 per cent of GDP in the 2008-09 period (Safe Work Australia, 2015).
Most organisations think of safety in terms of hazards/risks/controls; the worker’s knowledge; and their ability to make deliberate choices with safety in mind. Although these have merit, and are a part of the overall solution, they are not enough to prevent many incidents, even serious ones. What is missing?
These days there is strong evidence that inattention, or human error as it is sometimes referred to, is an important factor when incidents occur. A 2009 study conducted by Clemson University for the Queensland Department of Mines and Energy reviewed 508 reportable incidents in Queensland mining during 2004-08 and concluded that ‘human error leading to an unsafe act was an underlying cause of 95 per cent of accidents and incidents in Queensland Mining’ (Patterson and Shappell, 2010).
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