The Human System Interface

Ergonomics is defined as “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”

The focus of ergonomics is the design of the human-system interface. This includes interfaces between personnel and the hardware, software and physical environments associated with systems. It also involves the interfaces between personnel, individual tasks and the overall work system (e.g., its structure, management, policies and procedures). Based largely on findings stemming from analyses of the MPS database, the ABS Guide for Ergonomic Notations has been created to offer ergonomic (ERGO) notations for selected working areas on vessels and offshore structures, including topsides design, enclosed space design (e.g., on or below the main deck on the interior of the vessel), design for operability and maintainability and design for valve access and operability. A comprehensive review was performed to examine injury and close call records for ergonomic improvement opportunities related to vessel operations, maintenance and repair activities using the MPS system. Some of the questions that were addressed are below.

  • Is adequate space provided to perform the required activity (e.g., work envelope) which includes space for special tools, anthropometrics and any requisite personal protective equipment?
  • Are adequate means of access provided (e.g., work platforms)?
  • Are appropriate tools provided (e.g., equipment hoists or dollies)?
  • Are appropriate labels/instructions provided (e.g., comprehensive and comprehendible)?
  • Is the equipment/workplace designed such that adequate safety protection is afforded and maintained (e.g., guardrails, toe boards on elevated walkways/platforms above maintenance areas)?
  • Are there adequate procedures in place such as lock-out/tag-out, confined space entry, safe work permits, etc.?

A large body of guidance has been developed by ABS dealing with the ergonomics in design and construction of ships and offshore structures.