Mistakes or Errors

1.4.1 Mistakes

Developed early during my engineering career, I’ve become a mistake catcher. It has become part of my nature to look for mistakes everywhere: work, home, my fellow workers, my wife, and myself. Soon after we were married, my wife told me to “stop checking what I do!” I told her that I even check myself. She didn’t care, and told me to “stop it!” So I learned early on that checking laboratory data, checking calculations, and checking myself was OK, but that checking was not a good idea for others (and if you do check others it is best to be discrete.)

Engineering practice depends on working as mistake free as we can humanly work. If members of our engineering team make mistakes, we need to have a system to catch their mistakes as often as possible. Catching laboratory data mistakes, although not a simple matter, can be systematic if your laboratory has a thorough quality assurance and quality control (i.e., QA/QC) system in place. Mistakes in engineering calculations can be caught by having a peer reviewer check the logic and methods used, and by having another engineer check the equations’ terms and the numerical calculations (i.e., a number check). Some of these laboratory and calculation mistakes are simple issues and some of these mistakes are more complex issues to resolve, but they are all solved by standard engineering practice procedures. I would like to mention two other kinds of mistakes that I will call observation mistakes and logic ...

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