Monday, 11 April 2011

Incident aboard HMS Astute - Human factors and nuclear safety

The unfortunate incident aboard HMS Astute that lead to the death of an officer and another being seriously injured raises concerns about failures to identify personnel who may be unsuitable for life aboard nuclear submarines. It is notable that that the HSE draws attention to the need to consider carefully human factors in the design of the man machine interface in nuclear activities.

So far as civil nuclear activities are concerned operators can leave the site and when on site have space and access to amenities where as in a submarine operators live, cramped within a machine, 24/7 over extended periods of time.

It would seem that human factors may have played a significant part in this unfortunate incident. Bearing in mind that some submarines as well as having a nuclear reactor have on board nuclear weapons, it is clear that lessons must be learnt to ensure such incidents do not occur again, which could lead to altogether more serious outcomes.

Quote used in article
"Fred Dawson, a former senior safety official with the MoD, said that the tragic events on Astute “may reflect pressure either domestic, or at work, on crew manning submarines”.
He added: “My concern is about the failure of management to pick up on people like this, and that such people are key to the safety of nuclear systems.”


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