The Human Factor in Failures

by George F. Sowers, Sr. Consultant and Vice Pres.; Law Companies Group Inc., Kennesaw, GA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1991, Vol. 61, Issue 3, Pg. 72-73

Document Type: Feature article


Human shortcomings cause three-quarters of project failures. A study of 500 case histories led to this assumption. One such failure at the Walter Bouldin dam in Alabama, is described in detail. Lessons from this failure and the others suggest the human factors. The failed portion of the Bouldin dam was constructed between Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, a period of bad weather when workers are preoccupied with matters other than quality and the chief inspector was in the hospital. In general, human failures can be grouped in three categories: conditions beyond prevailing knowledge; ignorance of prevailing knowledge; and failure to use prevailing knowledge. Ignorance of prevailing knowledge accounts for 33% of failures. Communications between engineers, clients, contractors and the public is another essential human factor. Complex projects involve many disciplines and specialists sometimes compete and erect barriers between them. This can create artificial knowledge gaps. Coordination and integration are necessary for knowledge to be effective.

Subject Headings: Human factors | Case studies | Dam failures | Failure analysis | Project management | Labor | Health care facilities | Professional development | Alabama | United States

Services: Buy this book/Buy this article


Return to search