There is considerable science in the field of human error, and the human factors that make them more or less probable. And there are decades of experience from implementing management systems to control these human factors or to determine when compensating layers of protection are necessary when the human error rate is already as low as practicable. If you want to see a breakdown of the human factors and their relative effects on human error rate, then download this paper:

That paper also describes management systems to control each factor. The paper is written for process safety (chemical process plants and risks therein), but the same factors and the same controlling management systems have be used in internet/network companies, banking, aerospace, marine, steel, etc. US NRC, most folks in Process Safety, US DOE, and many others believe these human factors categories are correct. Aviation and US Military do too. We all use these or very similar categories to describe why a human makes a mistake; during design of a system and during investigation of near misses and losses/accidents.

With respect to investigating and getting to root causes that dovetail to these factors and therefore avoid blame, you can download our Root Cause Chart at:

There are other charts very similar to this one that spring from work at US DOE. Millions of investigations have been done using these root cause charts (ours and others).

There is also the current paper on Getting Near Misses Reported on the same downloading page; this paper will be replaced in a week or so. Some studies have stated this is the current definitive research on the subject; but we double the dataset in the next paper (in 1 week or so).

Please review these resources before saying this stuff is all black magic.. most of the people using these (such as me) grew up in chemical control rooms and chemical plant operations fighting the causes of accidents and losses. There are more than 100,000 folks, most of them “practical” folks, using the root cause chart or its cousins. A lot less understand the human factors and their relative influences, as described in the paper on Human Factors Elements Missing from PSM or in the paper titled Optimizing Human Factors, at