Human Failure Series: Violations

November 21, 2017

This is the last of the three part Human Failure Series.  If you've missed the other editions please click here for Part 1 (Slips and Lapses) and here for Part 2 (Mistakes).



What is a Violation?

A violation is a very common human failure.  It is an international breach of rules and leads to lots of injuries at work. 


There are several types of violation which include Routine, Situational and Exceptional.


A routine violation is where non-compliance becomes the norm.  Usually, most people within the organisation or work areas will think that a rule does not apply to them - typically because the rule is not enforced.


E.g. a driver routinely driving at over 70mph on the motorway. 



Situational violations occur when situation specific factors occur.  For example, the rule is normally followed but when factors such as workload, time pressures, unsuitable tools and weather.


E.g. A delivery driver has no option but to complete all their deliveries in the day and speeds.



Exceptional violations occur in highly unusual circumstances. Usually this is due to a person trying to solve an unusual situation and takes calculated risks.


E.g. A puncture on the way to work (unusual) results in the person speeding in order to not be late for work.


How do I deal with Violations?

  • Improve risk perception and promote understanding of the 'why'.  Make sure employees understand why the rule is in place - and the consequences of not following it. 

  • Increase the likelihood of getting caught.

  • Effective supervision

  • Reduce opportunities to cut corners (i.e. through poor job design, stupid rules, unrealistic targets and workloads)

  • Improve the organisational culture (e.g. Where breaking rules is not acceptable)

  • Encourage reporting of violations. 



Violations are a significant cause of injuries in the workplace.  Tackling them as preventable and a process issue rather than simply dealing with the individual will help you to reduce their occurrence.  Essentially if braking rules is allowed to occur, or not addressed, then it will become normal.  This may spread into more significant rules or other business areas and is best nipped in the bud before it escalated or becomes more entrenched in your culture. 


Ensure that your compliance team are regularly auditing and inspecting the workplace practices to identify violations.  Knowing they are happening is essential to planning your jobs and supervision to effectively reduce their occurrence.





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