Human Element Working Group

The Working Group on the role of the Human Element in Maritime Casualties was formally established at IMO in 1991, by the fifty-ninth session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and the thirty-first session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). The fact that the working group was established jointly by both major IMO committees is in recognition of the fact that the human element is a key factor in both safety and pollution prevention issues. The working group meets concurrently with meetings of the MSC or MEPC, as necessary. Between meetings, further work on the preparation of information and guidance is carried out by correspondence between group members.

The issues addressed by the working group are wide-ranging and varied. Its work no longer focuses on the role of the human element in maritime casualties. This specialized task is now undertaken by a separate group working through correspondence.


 Human Element Analysing Process (HEAP)


The Human Element Analysing Process (HEAP) is a practical and non-scientific checklist to assist regulators in ensuring that all the human element aspects related to the ship and its equipment, and the master and his crew, have been taken into consideration when introducing or amending IMO instruments.

The HEAP is a practical tool, designed to address the human element to be used for consideration of maritime safety and environmental protection issues at IMO. The flowchart is provided in accordance with Assembly resolution A.850(20).  Human Element Vision, Principles and Goals, goal (a) which states: to have in place a structured approach for proper consideration of human element issues for use in the development of regulations and guidelines by all Committees and Sub-Committees. The steps outlined in the flowchart list a series of questions that should be considered to appropriately address the human element in the regulatory development process.

This is a method developed by IMO for the use of IMO and should be seen as a practical and non-scientific checklist to assist regulators in ensuring that human element aspects related to the ship and its equipments, the master and crew, training, management ashore and on board, and work environment conditions have been taken into consideration when introducing or amending IMO instruments.


HEAP is broad in application and not to be seen as any kind of replacement for an FSA study.


Formal Safety Assessment (FSA)


Formal Safety Assessment (FSA) is a structured and systematic methodology, aimed at enhancing maritime Safety, including protection of life, health, the marine environment and property, by using risk and cost/benefit assessments.

FSA can be used as a tool to help in the evaluation of new regulations for maritime safety and protection of marine environment or making a comparision between existing and possibly improved regulations, with a view to achieving a balance between the various technical and operational issues, including the human element, and between maritime safety or protection of marine environment and costs.

The Human Element Working Group now works in combination with another group that deals with Formal Safety Assessment (FSA).

The FSA group aims to generate a new approach for developing international regulations with emphasis on risk and hazard assessment. This approach also gives full attention to the human element in ship operation.

A significant amount of work has been accomplished by the Organization in addressing the human element through this combined group. The issues addressed include:

  • safety management, through the ISM Code;
  • human element principles and goals for the Organization;
  • human element analysing process tool for addressing the human element in the regulatory process;
  • the problems associated with fatigue;
  • a taxonomy of terms used in human element analysis; and
  • review of studies related to ship operations and management.

Consideration of the human element has become a standing subject within the Organization. The Organization has adopted Human Element Vision, Principles and Goals and has developed the Human Element Analyzing Process tool, which provided a strategic plan and a structured systematic framework for addressing the human element.

All of the Organization's sub-committees are now charged with addressing human factors when deliberating new and existing regulations and guidance.


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