HUMAN ERRORS AND NON-TECHNICAL SKILLS
IRISL Maritime Training Institute
Today there is a general consensus among maritime stakeholders that human
error is the most dominant contributing factor in causing accidents.
It is also widely accepted that human error is a general term which covers a
variety of unsafe acts, omissions, behaviors and unsafe conditions or a
combination of these. A quick review of P&I clubs reports and bulletins shows
that this general term accounts for more than half of the claims and accidents.
The term human error indicates that the individual should have acted in a
different manner. Experts in maritime field agree on three basic points:
1. Everyone commits errors.
2. Human error is generally the result of circumstances beyond the control
of those committing the errors.
3. Systems or processes that depend on perfect human performance are
It is also agreed that there are numerous reasons for an individual to make
errors. These may include:
Lack of effective training
Poorly designed equipment
Noisy working conditions
Other personal and environmental factors
The above list is not exhaustive and most of them are not related to individual's
technical skills and knowledge.
Professor Michael Barnett in his article "Non-technical Skills: The vital
ingredients in Maritime technology" ,2006 stated that; the majority of accidents
and incidents are not caused by technical problems but by the failure of the crew
to respond appropriately to the situation. He also pointed out that other safety
critical industries have already taken positive measures for improving nontechnical skills; The aviation industry is a good example. Most researches claim 2
that maritime accidents are due to inappropriate respond of crew to the situation
and not because...