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When I started to write about shipping in the middle of the nineties, it was virtually impossible to find researchers to interview about work environment issues on board. There were one or two of course, but it was more about single initiatives than whole institutions that concentrated on the work environment. During the last two decades, a lot if things have happened in this area. The Maritime University in Gothenburg was one of the first. They ran studies on how the design of ships’ bridges affects deck officers’ work, ergonomic conditions in engine rooms and the impact of different watch systems on fatigue levels on board.
In the medical area, a study of cancer among sailors was published at the end of the nineties. It was given a lot of attention and the subject is now being taken up by researchers at the University Hospital of Umeå. The Kalmar Maritime Academy has carried out research on the work environment for a number of years now. One important contribution they made was an investigation revealing how work hours journals on board were “fixed”. In fact, crewmembers worked considerably more than what was officially reported and the rest time rules were being breached. A more recent report was on the work environment of service personnel, which came out earlier this year. Many other universities and institutes are now involved in studying the work environment at sea. Among them is the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, which is currently studying how the interior environment on ships affects onboard personnel, in collaboration with the Kalmar Maritime Academy.
This is only a small selection of what is happening in marine work environment research.
These days there are nearly always researchers to interview about work environment conditions on board, and the bank of scientific facts and statistics is steadily increasing. For an organization like SAN, which has been working for over 60 years to improve conditions for work at sea, this gives it a more solid foundation as well as more information to spread to people in the sector.
Linda Sundgren/editor of SAN news

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