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The Systematic Consideration of Human Factors in Vessel Collision Investigations

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Historically, human factors have caused or contributed to the cause of nearly every vessel collision. However, given the vast number and type of human factors that can possibly be involved, the typical marine investigator risks either considering these factors only superficially or becoming bogged down in an academic exercise. Beyond just saying the collision was caused by “human error,” the marine investigator should understand the role of human factors in the causal chain of events. Some human factor issues can be difficult to parse from the available information. This is particularly the case for historical events but is also true even where witnesses are available. Nonetheless, there are a number of key areas where hard facts can reveal human factor issues that directly caused or contributed to the collision or somehow exacerbate the results. This paper divides that consideration into three parts, (1) human factors that affect the risk of the collision occurring, (2) human factors that affect the response once risk of collision is perceived, and (3) human factors that affect witness perception and recollection after the accident. The construct described in this paper can be used by the investigator to ensure a systematic consideration of key human factors relevant to a collision.

Keywords: collision; human factors; investigation; perception; reaction

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-11-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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