Gesa wants to improve the work environment of others

Meet the maritime researcher Gesa Praetorius. Gesa is a human factors expert currently employed as postdoctoral fellow in Maritime Science, at Linnaeus University, Kalmar Maritime Academy, with focus on working life, organization and risk management.

- I’m interested in how we can design work environments that support wellbeing and optimize system performance, how can we actually promote that people working on board and at shore within the maritime domain are doing well in their job, being able to work efficiently and safety and also feel good about doing their job and like coming to work, says Gesa Praetorius.

What does your research contribute to?

- I think my research contributes to safety management and design within in the maritime domain. We often see humans as a source for errors, we talk about humans causing accidents in 80 or 90 percent of the causes, you can se that everywhere in the press. Whenever there is an accident people also talk about the human factor that caused it. So, my research can actually contribute to that by introducing a new perspective, trying to highlight what people do well, how they mitigate and promote safety in the work they do on board or at shore.

Can you describe how your research is conducted?

I mostly do qualitative research so I go on board or in to shore control centres and observe and interview people, trying to figure out user needs, what do people need to be supported in their work and try to define requirements for how we can actually measure safety within work environments.

Why is your research important?

- I think my research is important because it can contribute to a new perspective on the human operator within maritime operations. We often talk about humans as causing errors so most of our safety related efforts hoes towards designing more automation, introducing new regulations and guidelines how to work, but we never see through how we can support and facilitate work on board, we just try to eliminate the human element. So my research is important and can contribute to highlighting what humans are good at and trying to support them in their work.

How can your research be applied?

- I think my research can be applied in the development in the training and safety management systems in the future. As crew numbers are decreasing but we increase the number and size of vessels and also the degree of automation, design becomes a very important enabler for wellbeing on board but also for optimizing system performance. I think my research can be applied to contribute to better safety, better work environment and more efficient shipping operations in the future.

What do you se as the next step in the future?

- What I would like to do at the moment is to develop requirements for a new set of safety indicators, called resilience performance indicators, that try to capture what people contribute to safety. How do they promote it? And I hope that we can use the requirement we develop at the moment to do a case study with a shipping company where we analyse their safety management system and safety drills on board, and then try to too improve operations, safety through actually developing training units that use end users so people working on board, showing what are the limitations of what they are currently trained, and develop a new set of training material that can help them be more adaptive, flexible and more safer in the daily work settings.

What makes your work fun?

- My work is fun because I can actually try to improve the work environment of others. Not only do I get to see a lot of things I wouldn’t see normally, I’m a cognitive scientist by training, I never was a mariner, nowadays I get to spend a fair amount of time on board vessels and VTS centers, I get to talk to very skilled people and I get to try to formulate their needs so designers can actually help to have a better job in the future. I think that’s important and that kind of makes me thrive, says Gesa Praetorius.