Graduate Studies


First Advisor

Behzad Esmaeili

Date of this Version


Document Type



Mohammadhasanzadeh, S. (2017). "Measuring the Impact of cognitive Failure in Human Error in Construction Industry" thesis, presented to University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Construction Engineering and Management, Under the Supervision of Professor Behzad Esmaeili. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Sogand Mohammadhasanzadeh


Human error is one of the main causal factors in up to 80% of all accidents across various industries. Failures of cognitive processes (i.e., attention and memory failure) have been found to make a significant contribution to the human errors that lead to construction accidents. A better understanding of cognitive processes as they relate to construction will elucidate the more predictable varieties of human fallibility and allow for the creation of strategies to avoid such errors. No attempt has been made to investigate the potential of harnessing cognitive abilities as predictors of human error in the construction industry. To fill this gap, this thesis relies on construction workers’ eye-movement patterns as indicators of their real-time cognitive processes to examine the impact of cognitive failure –specifically, memory and attention failure – in human error. To accomplish this goal, this thesis: (1) measure visual attention garnered via a desktop eye tracking system to examine the influence of individual characteristics on workers’ cognitive failure to detect hazards; (2) uses visual attention metrics to pinpoint personalized safety training to improve hazard identification skills; (3) examines how working-memory load causes inattentional blindness and increases the probability of accident occurrences; and (4) uses visual attention measures garnered via a mobile eye tracker to examine whether situation awareness, in terms of awareness of self and surroundings, apparently modulates attentional distribution and fall risks. In the short term, outcomes of this research related to the fundamental nature of human error due to cognitive failure will help safety managers detect at-risk workers, identify hidden and missed hazards, pinpoint personalized safety training, and monitor the effectiveness of training interventions. In the long term, since the mobile eye tracker did not affect participants’ effective visual field and was a relatively unobtrusive tool, this study demonstrates the feasibility of using mobile eye tracking as personal protective equipment to assess situation awareness and attentional allocation of subjects in real time.

Advisor: Behzad Esmaeili