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Alert! No.35 -To work well and maintain

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Alert! (1)Putting people at the centre at the design stage and ensuring that the ship is easy to maintain while in service make for a vessel that is truly usable. And a usable ship can minimise fatigue and stress and increase situational awareness, as the latest issue of the International Maritime Human Element Bulletin Alert! explains.

Alert! No 35 focuses upon both ergonomics – defined as the study and design of working environments for the benefit of the worker’s productivity, health, comfort and safety – and maintainability, which is more obvious and perhaps better understood. A guide to both provides best practice hints on a range of relevant considerations and where guidance can be found, and a design guide for a human-centred approach for ship designers and equipment manufacturers explains how ships, their equipment and their systems can be made truly usable.

Anyone who has been some time at sea will recall examples of equipment or systems that appear to have been designed to cause the maximum inconvenience to the user. It might fulfil all the rules, but it is just so awkward, so counter-intuitive, so plain wrong! Furthermore, whoever installed it aboard ship may well have given no thought to the difficulties of maintaining it during its life.

Alert35_lowrescover aasPossibly the designers had no concept of the needs of the users, while the shipbuilders may have been focused on the convenience and speed of installation. If human-centred design is absent, however, this can lead to a mismatch between seafarers and their ship, its systems and procedures. As Editor David Squire emphasises in his Introduction to the latest edition “a well-designed ship and its systems should meet the needs of the operator, be easy to use and above all, reliable”.

Other features include a thought-provoking paper about the interdependence of human-centred design activities and the need to take into account human limitations. The physical environment, fatigue and stress factors are all matters that need to be considered.

The FAROS European research project is also described. This considers whether current design standards adequately cater for safety, in particular focusing on problems faced by seafarers which serve to diminish their performance and indeed their enjoyment of a working and living environment. Ship motions, noise, whole body vibration, deck layout, equipment arrangements and other global design factors all contribute to this picture. There is plenty of information available on onboard work and habitability environments and this edition points the reader to this.

Recent editions of the International Maritime Human Element Bulletin have offered salutary lessons and Alert! No.35 provides a grim report of a design flaw that led to two shipmates losing their lives in an enclosed space that, because of the cargo being carried, turned a store room, otherwise thought safe, into a lethal oxygen-starved compartment.

The Alert! Project – launched in October 2003 – is a campaign to improve the awareness of the human element in the maritime industry. This is a Nautical Institute project, sponsored by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Further information about the human element awareness initiative, and electronic copies of Alert! can be found at www.he-alert.org.

  • David Squire, FNI FCMI
  • The Editor
  • Alert!
  • The Nautical Institute
  • 202 Lambeth Road
  • London SE1 7LQ
  • United KingdoM
  • editor@he-alert.org

 The Nautical Institute is the international representative body for maritime professionals and others with an interest in nautical matters. It provides a wide range of services to enhance the professional standing and knowledge of members who are drawn from all sectors of the maritime world.

Founded in 1972, it is a thriving international professional body, with over 40 branches worldwide and some 7, 000 members in more than 110 countries.


Lloyd’s Register Foundation is a charitable foundation, helping to protect life and property by supporting engineering-related education, public engagement and the application of research. www.lrfoundation.org.uk

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