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SURVEY REVEALS THAT CONSTANT BRIDGE WARNINGS CREATE ‘ALARM FATIGUE’

Saturday, July 13, 2019 

Frequently sounding bridge warnings, especially false ones, can create ‘alarm fatigue’ and hinder watch keepers in carrying out their vital role, a new survey supported by InterManager has revealed.

The findings have been released by Shipowners Club, a P&I Club, which conducted the survey in conjunction with the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, ISWAN and InterManager, in order to investigate whether alarms on the bridge may affect the attention and focus of bridge watchkeepers.

Responding to the findings, InterManager is now calling for manufacturers to work with ship operators to address seafarers' concerns and develop better ways of communicating bridge warnings. Respondents highlighted there is a problem with too many similar sounding alarms and revealed a need for alarms to be easily identifiable so that urgent warnings can be recognised over simple notification bells.

Of the Masters and senior officers responding to the survey, 89% thought false alarms were a problem, and 66% agreed the alarms were not easily detectable. Worryingly, 24% reported that they never or seldom engaged the Bridge Navigational Watch Alarm System due to their concerns at frequent false alarms.

Another factor that emerged from the answers was the crew’s readiness to silence alarms without investigation due to ‘alarm fatigue’ caused by repeated alarm soundings for no apparent reason.

Capt Kuba Szymanski (pictured), InterManager Secretary General, said: “At present, as an industry we are creating an environment for failure and then we are surprised when our seafarers fail. They are extremely busy people, because we ask them to be ‘jacks of many trades’. Therefore, in my opinion, quite rightly they expect alarms to be useful and effective.”

Welcoming the report, he said: “This is brilliant – I cannot praise Shipowners’ enough for undertaking this ground-breaking research and drawing excellent conclusions. In particular I am pleased that they checked with the end users – that is very proactive and, I would say, pioneering. Honestly, this is one of very, very few surveys which actually asks seafarers themselves.”

Szymanski said manufacturers need to work with ship operators and crew representatives to identify which alarms are particular problems and to produce more effective methods of alert. “Seafarers are tired of being blamed for everything,” he said. “It is important that we take a human-centric approach to this and find solutions that benefit our crews in the workplace rather than hinder them when carrying out vital tasks.”

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