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November 12, 2015

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Award for human factors in maritime design


Rolls-Royce has announced that its human factors ‘designers’ have won the Ergonomics Design Award 2015 from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF) for their work on re-imagining the design of a ship’s bridge. The work aims to prevent accidents  caused by human error aboard ships, say the company, adding that the four-year long project had one mission: to improve operational safety and comfort for crews on board during demanding offshore operations.

Frøy Birte Bjørneseth, Principal Engineer – Human Factors and Control Centres at Rolls-Royce Marine said: “Sea vessel crews today are under increasing mental and physical strain to operate complex automation systems and technologies. Our job at Rolls-Royce was to put usability back at the heart of the design to introduce a more comfortable, clutter-free and safe working environment.”

Rolls-Royce explain that part of the project involved the team boarding a ship in the North Sea to better understand life at sea, where they observed a range of real-life platform supply operations. Throughout development, realistic simulations in a virtual environment were carried out to collect data in Rolls- Royce’s Training and Technology Centre in Norway.

According to the company, identifying that levers and emergency switches were difficult to decipher, leaving operators vulnerable to mistakes, the project looked at the current configuration and put the levers into more easily recognisable positions.

They explain that Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) on maritime applications are often the only way the operator can interact with equipment so the project focused heavily on software usability. Redesigning the applications has resulted in one common platform for Rolls-Royce Marine software across all applications and screen sizes including a common alarm philosophy and way of switching between systems, giving the user full overview and control, they say.

According to Rolls-Royce, ship bridge clutter appears when equipment from several different suppliers (with different interfaces and interaction styles) gathers in the bridge consoles. They say the results from the experiments have resulted in a multitude of changes, including:

  • crews can now choose between both a supported seat and standing work position
  • armrests were moved from the operator chairs to the consoles, but still maintaining the ergonomic distance/angle from torso to elbow
  • surfaces were cleared of equipment by integrating third party equipment into an auxiliary system control using a touch panel
  • all controllers, levers, button panels and monitors are now placed closer to the operator

Stephen Barraclough, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors (CIEHF) said: “A safety-critical industry such as shipping must surely do all it can to make mistakes less likely to happen. The Rolls-Royce maritime project is a real example of how ergonomics and human factors can reduce the likelihood of human error and also contribute to the design and usability of a very competitive commercial product. Huge congratulations to the team – deserved winners amongst a very strong field!” Set up to celebrate designers and ergonomists putting the science of everyday life into their projects, products or designs, The Ergonomics Design Award is now in its fifth year.

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