The UK Chamber of Shipping has taken a closer look at what constitutes ‘human error’, the cause of 80% of marine accidents.
In a blog post on the chamber’s website, policy manager Adrian Mundin looked at how these myriad causes can be arrested, as the world fleet grows and congestion increases the risk of incidents, and the severity of their consequences.
“Poor training, a lack of experience, complacency and sometimes fatigue are all too easily cited as the causes of human error, often with little further analysis,” Mundin wrote.
Human error also plays a part in the 20% of incidents for which it is not listed as a factor: “Material failure may be down to poor design or construction, extreme weather might be a failure to forecast or take appropriate avoiding action, and thus all accidents should be viewed as preventable,” said Mundin.
Training of and consultation with the crew when it comes to implementing new safety procedures and technology is important, Mundin stated, as without it safety measures might not have the desired effects.
“The seafarer may have had little input to the design, which may be unnecessarily complex, making operation confusing. Even if adequate training is carried out, the skills necessary fade rapidly.”
A top-down culture of safety and proper assessment of incidents are essential to progress, according to Mundin, as is striking a balance between apportioning blame for failures where appropriate and making crew comfortable reporting near-misses. Further, keeping administration of this to a minimum, and avoiding paperwork and box-ticking for its own sake, is crucial.
“A ‘just culture’ of near-miss reporting, where blame does not discourage individuals from reporting incidents, is strongly recommended. Such a system provides useful leading indicators and it is known that organisations using it suffer fewer actual accidents.”
Mundin recommended the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s guide ‘The Human Element – a guide to human behaviour in the shipping industry’, and noted a successful and popular seminar held by the UK Chamber on the same subject recently.
“There is much to do to spread best practice more widely and the chamber will continue to take a close interest in the development and application of this important subject,” Mundin concluded.
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