Human Element Strategy
What is the “human element”?
IMO defines the “human element” as “a complex multi-dimensional issue that affects maritime safety, security and marine environmental protection involving the entire spectrum of human activities performed by ships' crews, shore based management, regulatory bodies and others. All need to co-operate to address human element issues effectively”. 
“Alert!” proposes that “the term “human element” embraces anything that influences the interaction between a human and any system aboard ship”. 
IMO encourages an increased focus on human-related activities in the safe operation of ships, in order to meet the need to achieve and maintain high standards of safety and environmental protection. 
It is often stated that around 80% of maritime accidents can be attributed to human element failures. This supports the view that the people and the environments in which they work may play a crucial role in preventing accidents. Despite many recent positive efforts by a range of industry sectors, much still remains to be done in focusing in on the many areas which make up the human element environment.
Some of the many factors which affect the human element
Training; ability; experience; recruitment; workplace layout; workload
(cognitive & physical); ergonomics; situational awareness; operational systems; management policies
(or lack of); morale; motivation; conditions of service; standards of certification; loyalty; fatigue.
has recent RAP human element work progressed?
“Safer Lives, Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas”.
The MCA’s Chief Executive , the National Audit Office  and the MAIB  identify the human element in shipping as key to meeting this commitment.
Previous efforts commenced in 2002 with the adoption by the Executive Board of the first MCA Human Element Strategy. Early stages included research to help improve the role of leadership in developing and maintaining a safety culture, hosting a seminar with industry representatives to develop and share a common understanding of the topic and of potential solutions, and developing and trialling a Human Element Assessment Tool (HEAT) to improve safety management.
The views of industry representatives, including shipping companies, P&I clubs, classification societies, professional institutions, and IMO, as well as MCA internal partners and stakeholders, have been broadly positive about this approach. This is measured by feedback at conferences, seminars and individual meetings, as well as complimentary reports in industry publications.
RAP view on human element strategy:
All areas of the MCA’s activities, internally and externally are affected by human element issues. Commercially, helping industry help itself seems the most logical course of action for the MCA to adopt. Internally, the MCA should embrace the human element principles it supports in the external environment if it is to maintain credibility. The revised RAP strategy builds on this work in providing a simple framework for logical progression.
1) Analyse the human element environment, stakeholder expectations, resources and capabilities;
2) Choose deliverable activities to promote effective improvements;
3) Implement and facilitate those activities.
The process is iterative, with the stages repeated as appropriate in response to changes in the industry or developments in potential interventions.
Effectively improving the positive aspects, and reducing the negative aspects, of the human element of maritime safety will not be a quick process. It must be systematically and continually addressed over a long period. Recognising this, a series of suggested activities are presented below, to be implemented over the short, medium and long term for those aspects of the human element where RAP has an influence.
The RAP short term (1 year) human element strategy
Disseminate research findings to the maritime community to facilitate improvements in culture and operational practices. Current externally contracted research projects include:
•RP545 Guidance for interaction with automated systems;
•RP546 Development of a cognitive workload assessment tool;
•RP547 Organisational/industry structures and their effects on safety management.
Increase industry awareness of HE issues, and disseminate HE guidance, through seminars, conferences, presentations, published articles etc.
Actively market the revised “Leading for Safety” booklet (following research project 521) and submit a paper to IMO incorporating MIN 215 which summarises the findings of RP521 and how to get copies of the booklet.
Consolidate sponsorship for HE development and set up a UK Human Element Advisory Group (HEAG) to meet at 6 monthly intervals to coincide with briefing sessions for IMO sessions.
Liaise and network with other HE specialists/experts, regulatory agencies including EMSA and investigative bodies, especially MAIB, to learn lessons and identify novel/best HE practice which can be promulgated.
Promote the adoption by the maritime industry of key HE issues such as:
•Optimising human performance and behaviour;
•Learning lessons from accidents/near-misses;
•Assessing human reliability in high demand situations;
•Integrating the human element into management systems and culture;
•Taking the human element into account in the regulation governing design.
Improve work on the human element at an international level, through IMO forums such as the joint MSC/MEPC Human Element Working Group, and plenary HE discussions at MSC, MEPC, DE and NAV as appropriate. This includes building on the work at the July 2005 Working Group, which produced a range of Circulars to guide the industry and the Organization, and a Human Element Strategic Plan for the Organization.
The RAP medium term (2-3 year) strategy
Continue to influence the HE environment paradigm change but with an emphasis on working in conjunction with European partners, possibly with EU/EMSA sponsorship.
Gather intelligence on the industry climate and appetite for culture change through 6 monthly Human Element Advisory Group (HEAG) meetings.
Continue attending, supporting and leading appropriate IMO HE initiatives and with many of the activities described within our short term strategy.
Evaluate and promulgate the evidence gained from further research projects, including:
•RP543 PhD in the use of voyage data recorder information (MCA-sponsored, in partnership with MAIB and Southampton Solent University).
Build industry relationships and support for the human element, including collaboration opportunities with P&I clubs, MAIB and classification societies, and acknowledge the experience of those who have served in their respective industry as a rich source of knowledge.
Continue to support surveyor activities, in particular via implementation of HEAT in an appropriate form and manner.
The RAP longer term vision (5-10 years)
Providing robust support for growing the UK Flag through agreed HE principles.
Continue to input the HE message into the gradual process of culture change in commercial shipping, and increasingly into the fishing and leisure sectors.
Provide robust input for revision of the ISM code.
Contribute to Agency-wide efforts to improve the quality of statistical information capture within the MCA, in order to target interventions on areas of highest risk most effectively.
Coordination of MCA work on the human element
As this document demonstrates, the various aspects of HE for which the MCA has responsibility are dealt with by a range of branches. Communication between them on a joined-up approach to HE is often informal at best, leading to a lack of coordination in the Agency’s approach to HE. Considering HE centrally and in a coordinated manner within the Agency’s strategic planning would enable a more joined-up and effective approach to coordinating HE work both internally and externally.
A coordinated approach to HE policy would better enable:
•Developing and implementing an MCA human element policy, encompassing all aspects of HE in a coordinated manner;
•“Growing the flag” by embracing an agreed HE strategy with industry to grow UK competitive advantage;
•Increasing horizontal communication and co-working with other MCA branches involved in HE work, and promote Agency-wide integration of the human element into MCA guidance;
•Supporting HE work in other MCA branches and exploring synergies with lessons learned from experience in commercial activities;
•Developing and continuing efforts in areas such as:
Training and competence of MCA and shipping staff;
Building internal and external relationships;
Team working – Crew Resource Management;
Communication and the chain of command;
Allocation of function to people/systems;
Design and use of automated systems;
Procedures and compliance issues;
Industry attitudes and behaviour regarding safety;
Operating environment and ergonomics.
What human element challenges does the MCA face?
Shipping is a globalised industry and commercial pressures continually act to increase profits, often by lowering crew costs and thereby diminishing the stock of experienced, professional seafarers. Improving standards and quality in such a climate requires a combination of efforts throughout the industry, and will benefit from full support throughout all branches of the MCA.
Broadening the HE message that well trained and motivated people, with access to appropriate equipment, are a key resource for a successful business will require changing the attitude of “cheapest will do”.
Use of ship management companies and crewing agencies is increasing and serves to dilute any individual company culture (safety or otherwise) as more seafarers move from one contract to another. Our efforts should be in tune with the modern industry environment to avoid any strategic drift.
The fishing industry has historically experienced particularly high casualty rates and human factors relevant to commercial shipping may also apply to the fishing industry.
It is the desire of the Agency that the fishing industry increases its emphasis on a safety culture, and changing this culture will reduce the levels of risk that fishermen expose themselves too. Providing a human element input to the Fishing Vessel Safety branch may contribute to achieving this.
The leisure industry, in particular recreational coastal users, presents to the Agency the dual challenge of (often) having a lack of awareness of risk and threats to their safety, combined with little or no controls on their behaviour.
Any future MCA prevention strategy to improve risk awareness and influence the behaviour of recreational coastal users will therefore need to be based upon a sound understanding of human behaviour. Efforts of the Agency will be proportional to the risk faced by participants in a particular leisure activity.
•Within the Agency
With the advent of new systems like AIS in the Coastguard operations rooms, watchroom operators will have a visual (albeit limited) surface picture of the waters around the UK. Changes like these will inevitably raise internal HE issues such as workplace layout, situational awareness, workload and training requirements.
MCA surveyors are also increasingly required to be aware of the human element, as part of ISM audits and ILO and PSC inspections. There should be a strong and coordinated HE input to the training and information that they receive, in order that they be most effective during surveys by investigating salient areas and dispensing appropriate advice.
There may be opportunities to incorporate information provided to the industry to improve safety management, team working etc. into Agency processes. For example, EFQM and Investor in People accreditation depend on consideration of people within the work of the organisation.
Captain D M Turner