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Applying Ergonomics in Ship Design for Safer Shipping

21 December 2016

It's important to take the crew into consideration when designing new ships. If ship design is not optimised for the crew and their work demands, both the safety of a ship and its efficiency can be affected, PhD Steven Mallam, at Chalmers Department of Shipping and Marine Technology, writes in his newly presented thesis.

Steven Mallam has investigated and identified strategies that facilitate the implementation of user-centred design solutions during new ship development which contribute to improved onboard work environments for crewmembers. Mallam states that contemporary naval architecture prioritizes a ship’s technical aspects, its construction costs and overall operational efficiency, while issues regarding the human element and detailed work environment design are often neglected. However, research reveals that inadequate design contributes to increased human error and accidents in maritime operations, thus revealing the importance of user-centred design and detailed work environment features.

The main objective of Steven Mallam’s thesis is to better understand how ergonomic solutions can be effectively integrated into naval architecture and ship construction practices. Mallam argues that the design and layout of a ship's work environment influences how the onboard crew execute their work tasks, and ultimately needs to be addressed during conceptual design development.

Results from Mallam’s research have been used to develop new ergonomics integration methods and tools specifically tailored for naval architecture. This research has developed a visualization software program called E-SET (Ergonomic Ship Evaluation Tool). E-SET was developed to facilitate participatory practices in ship design and construction processes between multidisciplinary, geographically distributed stakeholders; and it particularly focuses on the increased inclusion and participation of crewmembers and ergonomists throughout ship development.

Mallam’s thesis argues that improved design solutions can be achieved by better utilizing crew knowledge and experience in ship design and construction processes. However, the future success of ergonomics and user-centred design applications in new ship development requires a culture shift within the shipping industry itself and a champion within the industry to help promote and apply ergonomics across ship design and operations.

For more information please refer to Steven Mallam’s published thesis “Distributed Participatory Design in Multidisciplinary Engineering Projects: Investigating a Sustainable Approach for Ship Design & Construction”.

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