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3 Examples of a Use Error

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A use error is an error that involves a person and a technology. This is designed to replace the term "user error" that makes the implicit assumption that the user is at fault. The following are illustrative examples.

User Interface

A user interface on an industrial machine places buttons close together on a touch screen such that it is easy to unintentionally hit an adjacent button. In addition, the touch screen isn't very responsive and users often find they have to hit buttons multiple times to get a response. When an error occurs because a wrong button is pressed, it is labeled user error. After a series of costly production incidents, the organization decides to send users on training to reduce user errors. This fails to reduce risk because the real issue is a poorly designed user interface.

Technology Shortfall

In some cases, user error is used as an excuse not to fix underlying technology bugs, vulnerabilities and design issues. For example, an information security incident occurs when a user clicks on a link in a spam email. The incident is labeled a user error and the employee is sent for defensive computing training. In this scenario, more relevant issues such as vulnerabilities in spam filters, virus scanners and the user's web browsers are glossed over as the user is blamed.

Human Error

A stock trader enters the wrong stock ticker on a buy trade and a price of $12. The trading system prominently displays the name of the company when the ticker is entered but the trader doesn't notice. The system stops the order because $12 is too far from the market price of $8. The trader somehow reenters the price as $8 and resubmits the trade. The system has no information to suspect that the ticker is wrong and fills the trade. In this example, a use error can be explicitly labeled a human error.
Overview: Use Error
An error involving a human and a technology.
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