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Preventing Accidents due to Human Errors thru Ergonomic design

Posted to Preventing Accidents due to Human Errors thru Ergonomic design (by on August 13, 2012

ClassNK spearheads new initiatives for eradicating marine accidents caused as a result of human errors



Regulations and systems have not achieved the desired effects in averting marine accidents which are a result of human errors and account for 80 per cent of those occurring worldwide. The implementation of the International Safety Management Code adopted by the International Maritime Organization has no doubt played a significant role in addressing this issue through training and education of crew members but to some extent casualties can be prevented by eliminating other indirect causes including hardware, such as equipment systems.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) published the “Standard Practice for Human Engineering Design for Marine Systems, Equipment and Facilities, F 1166-07” in 2007, presenting the ergonomic design principles of marine equipment systems. The International Maritime Organization published the Guidelines on Ergonomic Criteria for Bridge Equipment and Layout in 2000 and these guidelines are being applied.


Taking matters forward ClassNK has come out with ‘Guidelines for the Prevention of Human Error Abroad Ships through the Ergonomic Design of Marine Machinery Systems” which are bound to create a ripple among maritime professionals. This has been developed based on a review undertaken by the panel constituted by Nippon Kaiji Kyokai. Institutions responsible for the contributions in framing these guidelines include Kobe University, NYK Lines, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd, Mitsuibishi Heavy Industries, Universal Shipbuilding Corporation and Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering Co. Ltd.

For the successful implementation of the guidelines, a smooth flow of information between the crew members and between equipment systems and between crew members and equipment systems is important for safe operations. The most important ergonomic element of these is the communication between operator and equipment. In other words, the ergonomic design of the man-machine interface is important for ensuring a smooth flow of information. Ergonomic design is expected to make the working environment of marine equipment systems more effective and safe as well as minimize any reduction in the workability of crew members and occurrence of errors. In addition, the introduction of ergonomic design criteria would definitely increase the standardization of controls, indicators, marking, coding, labeling and arrangement, thus making usage more consistent. As a result crew members can be easily trained to use equipment systems. Furthermore much higher standards can be ensured by considering the convenience of maintenance and inspection at the design stage.

These guidelines emphasize the ergonomic aspect of marine machinery systems provided aboard ships, mainly in control stations, working spaces and engine rooms to ensure that the consideration is given to the mutual interaction between crew members and equipment systems in the design and installation stages.

The guidelines first focus on ergonomics and also on principles on how to implement design considerations for reducing human error. Several case studies undertaken from the view point of ergonomic and preventive design measure offer an in-depth understanding helping greatly in reducing accidents caused by human errors.

It must be noted that if the possible cause of an accident is human error, finding and eliminating the root cause of such errors is vital for preventing recurrence - whether it is related to human element, hardware factors, organizations and management factors. Strangely, even amongst actual causes of an accident, there are many cases where humans are “unaware of” the existence of harm - the process to adapt for a specific task or the differences in usage of equipment or materials.

For improvements in operability and working environment it is necessary to ensure that the operability is not poor or inconvenient or is encountering obstacles during operations. Since it heightens the risk of an accident, it is important to pay attention to the arrangement and layout of equipment. Hence it is important that operators work in congenial and safe surroundings. 

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