Issue 35 - Introduction

The Alert! cover story for this issue features a sad incident in which two crew members died because of a long-standing design flaw. In this issue of Alert! we are focussing on Ergonomics and Maintainability.

The Alert! cover story for this issue features a sad incident in which two crew members died because of a long-standing design flaw in the ship’s cargo hold ventilation trunking which had presented maintenance problems for some time. A ‘do it yourself’ modification was made without appreciating the risks associated with effectively making the forward store air space common with that of the cargo hold - which had fatal consequences.

In this issue of Alert! we are focussing on Ergonomics and Maintainability.

IMO MSC-MEPC.7/Circ.3 - Framework for consideration of ergonomics and work environment - provides guidance on the application of ergonomic solutions as a means to reduce personal injuries and incidents or accidents brought on by human error. This is explained further in page 8 of this Issue.
In Issue No. 3 of Alert!, we define Ergonomics as the study and design of working environments, for the benefit of the worker’s productivity, health, comfort, and safety. And, in the same Issue we define Maintainability as designing operational maintenance tasks to be rapid, safe and effective in order to allow equipment and systems to achieve a specified level of performance.

In laymen’s terms, Ergonomics is about making the ship and its systems fit for the people who are going to operate them, rather than fitting the people to the ship and its systems, as is often the case, particularly when purchasing ‘off the shelf’.
Accidents at sea can manifest themselves in different ways, such as: operator error, through a lack of attention to regulations or instructions, unfamiliarity, or through poor ergonomics; slips, trips and falls, due to poor design and insufficient attention at the design stage to the possibilities of operating in an environment which affects ship motion; or through inadequate maintenance and a lack of attention at the design stage to maintainability – to name but a few.

Human-centred design is the means by which the risks arising from a mismatch between seafarers, their ship, its systems and operational procedures are mitigated. A well-designed ship and its sys- tems should meet the needs of the operator, be easy to use, easy to maintain and, above all, reliable.

Alert! bulletins, issues No. 3 - Ergonomics, No. 7 - Design and usability, No. 11 – Integration, No. 15 - Automation and No. 17 - Slips, trips and falls, and their associated centrespreads and videos can be downloaded from: