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Two Views of ‘Human Error’

There are basically two ways of looking at ‘human error.’ The first view is known as the Old View, or The Bad Apple Theory. It maintains that:

•  Complex systems would be fine, were it not for the erratic behavior of some unreliable people (Bad Apples) in it.

•  ‘Human errors’ cause accidents: more than two-thirds of them.

•  Failures come as unpleasant surprises. They are unexpected and do not belong in the system. Failures are introduced to the system through the inherent unreliability of people.

The Old View maintains that safety problems are the result of a few Bad Apples in an otherwise safe system. These Bad Apples don’t always follow the rules, they don’t always watch out carefully. They undermine the organized ...

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