When an accident happens, human factors are often blamed. But Gesa Praetorius from the World Maritime University in Malmö is working to create safer ship environments through better ship design and clearer organisation.
Gesa has been working with maritime research for many years, studying the relationship between people, technology and organisation. She had several examples of ships’ environments not always being designed for those working in them, such as dazzling screens, inaccessible displays and alarms that must be constantly reset. This kind of problem, she said, could easily be avoided by asking the crew at the design stage.
Piles of documentation
”And I don’t only mean officers, I mean the seafarers as well. They have the knowledge of how you work in the system. By involving the crew you get better, safer ships at the same time as employees on board feel involved and important.
Gesa Praetorius is working in the CYCLADES project (Crew-centred design and operations of ships and ship systems). Over 600 accidents, incidents and near misses have been studied in the project. One of the conclusions drawn by the researchers from the piles of documentation analysed is the necessity of understanding how people work in their everyday lives in order to improve safety.
”When something happens, people immediately start looking for the person who made a mistake. In fact it would be a lot more constructive to get rid of poor design instead. Safety is a non-event and something that happens every day,” she says.