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Human Element and Safety

The Human Element Team at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) works closely with the UK Ship Register and our customers. Together, we focus on improving Seafarer Safety through the use of behavioural science. The team takes a holistic approach to improving safety, which means examining every part of the system that impacts seafarer safety (for example, the organisation, the job, the environment and individual behaviour). This helps to guide positive changes at every level of the maritime industry.

The Human Element is implicated as a causal factor in up to 90% of all maritime incidents. Human Element (known as human factors in other industries) is the study of human error and performance-influencing factors with the aim of improving performance and reducing errors in safety-critical industries like the maritime industry.

Work of the Human Element Team

Seafarer Wellbeing Guidance

Guidance on the long-term wellbeing and human performance impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and crew change guidance.

Human Element causes in Maritime Incidents

Analysis of published MAIB (time range 2010 to 2020+) reports to draw out the major Human Element causes in maritime accidents. This supports evidence-based policy-making.

Human Element, Leadership and Management Training (HELM) review

HELM is a mandatory course for Masters and Officers aimed at building the skills and competencies to manage and lead crew on board. In 2018, the MCA supported a review of the HELM. Following the review, the team are supporting STCW with revision of HELM to improve the limitations identified in the Babcock review.

Human Element Strategy Group (HESG) and Human Element Advisory Group (HEAG)

HESG is a small maritime industry stakeholder group that sets Human Element priorities for the MCA and HEAG. HEAG is an industry-wide working group established to undertake and collaborate on projects based on the priorities established by HESG. Priority for the next meeting is just culture in the maritime industry.

Maritime Safety Climate Tool (SCT)

Collaboration with the Health and Safety Executive and maritime companies to develop a maritime-specific tool to enable companies to assess how their employees perceive safety culture.

Seafarer statistics

Collating data to strengthen the evidence base on seafarer personal injury, mortality and human factors statistics. 

Human Element in maritime publications

You can contact our Human Element team by email at