Improving Habitability on Board
The end user is the most important element when designing and his/her anthropometry is the key factor during the design process.
Designing the interior spaces of any vessel is a challenging task. There are important considerations to keep in mind regarding the adequate use of the space. The end user is the most important element when designing and his/ her anthropometry is the key factor during the design process.
In 2009, COTECMAR (The Science and Technology Corporation for the Development of the Naval, Maritime and Riverine Industry in Colombia) initiated a research program in Human Centered Ship Design to improve ship design practices, specifically operability, maintainability, and habitability in new vessels. This program was initiated taking into consideration the need to include ergonomics and human factors engineering (HFE) considerations to affect in a positive way the performance of the crew.
Since the purpose was to optimize habitability, ergonomic risk was defined as the measure of merit for minimization. The ergonomic risk takes into account the analysis of: 1) physical environment, 2) physical workload, and 3) mental workload. Improvements in all these areas will help to reduce crew fatigue and increase overall safety, as well as quality of life. The program included the application of the latest norms pertaining to human factors engineering and ergonomics on board ships, including those by ABS, ASTM, IMO, ISO, and RINA, where the criteria for accepting or rejecting a condition were found.
This research program also included a final phase of HFE and ergonomic improvements for the interior spaces of the Riverine Patrol & Supply Vessel (RPSV). This vessel was chosen to be the case study because it has been completely designed and built by COTECMAR. The RPSV, in its 3rd generation, represents a product of several years of innovation since 1998 that now includes human element design considerations.
Among several standards for habitability the ABS guide 2001, was selected as criteria for the analysis of the physical environment. Noise, lighting and indoor climate were assessed following the procedure for data acquisition and analysis. After collecting all the measurements on board in different sailing conditions, a thorough analysis was made to determine the most critical problems and the specific areas of ergonomic intervention.
In the case of physical workload the team worked with the ABS Guidance for the application of ergonomics to marine Systems 2003, ISO 11228 Ergonomics and ISO 11226 Evaluation of Static Working Postures; at this point only the activities directly related to the vessel’s operation, especially those with repeated postures or those that cause some level of discomfort, were assessed. These postures were then evaluated using the REBA (Rapid Entire Body Assessment) method. After applying this method it was easy to determine the real levels of risk and the type of intervention needed to improve the conditions on board. Crossing all the gathered information, it was concluded that the most important spaces for HFE interventions were the Bridge and the Tactical Information Center (TIC) due to high crew workloads (physical and cognitive).
Improvements to the Bridge design focused on the redesign of the main console. The goal was to assure an easy reach access of the vessel controls and appropriate placement of displays within the crew member’s primary field of view. Another important element was the helmsman’s console seat design, to include height and fore and aft, and adjusting mechanisms to accommodate the anthropometric differences of different users, for example, women as they are now serving aboard these and other vessels of the Colombian Navy.
The TIC was improved by modifying the arrangement of communications equipment to improve posture, and the arrangement of the furniture to improve the flow of the crew and therefore the evacuation.
Good Habitability always comes from a good design process that acknowledges the importance of the human being in the safe and effective operation of the vessel.