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3 Examples of Err On The Side Of Caution

Err on the side of caution is a risk management principle that states it is better to be too cautious than too aggressive. It is considered a foundational principle for managing health and safety risks. The following are illustrative examples.

Safety vs Schedule

Err on the side of caution suggests it is better to risk a schedule delay that a safety issue. For example, a firm with a safety culture may give all employees the right to delay a production line to address a safety problem. It would be contrary to this principle to punish employees for being too cautious about safety. The only possible exception would be cases of malicious compliance.

Quality vs Cost

Err on the side of caution can be used as a quality principle to guide decisions where there is a trade-off between quality and cost. For example, a headphone designer may include steel components if there is any doubt about the durability of cheaper plastic parts.

Benefits vs Risk

The principle of err on the side of caution can also be used to balance benefits and risks. For example, a new food coloring may have benefits such as improving customer perceptions of quality. Err on the side of caution requires that risks to health be ruled out before using the chemical in food.


The alternative spelling "error on the side of caution" is technically incorrect as the correct word is err. Nevertheless, this is an increasingly common spelling that may be gaining acceptance.
Overview: Err On The Side Of Caution
A risk management principle that states it is better to be too cautious than too aggressive.
Also Known As
Error on the side of caution
Related Concepts

Safety Design

This is the complete list of articles we have written about safety design.
Active Safety
Defensive Design
Error Tolerance
Graceful Degradation
Mistake Proofing
Moving Parts
Passive Risk
Passive Safety
Reliability Engineering
Residual Risk
Safety Controls
Safety Needs
Secondary Risk
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