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Automation failures have been the cause widely reported disasters, such as Air France Flight 447. Unidentified relatives of passengers on Air France's Flight 447 mourn outside Notre Dame Cathedral after a memorial service for the victims of the Air France air crash on June 3, 2009 in Paris. Air France Flight 447, from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, on June 1, 2009, claiming the lives of 12 crew members and 216 passengers from 32 different countries.

Multi-Tasking and Working Memory: New Info that Could Reduce Workplace Incidents

Sept. 7, 2016
Personnel selection and training could mitigate the effects of cognitive lock-up among automation operators.

Automation failures have been the cause widely reported disasters, such as the crash of Air France Flight 447 in 2009, as well as much more minor incidents in just about every workplace that uses automation.

In the case of the Air France flight, the focus was placed on deficiencies in the automated system. Although automation does help in avoiding human error in completing tasks, people still are needed to monitor how well the automated system is operating.

Monitoring of systems often requires multitasking: There usually is more than a single function to monitor, and when one function fails, it likely leads to subsequent failures, which can occur in rapid succession. Operators can experience something known as “cognitive lock-up” if they are lacking in ability or training in working memory and sustained attention.

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