The Human Elelment - a guide for the maritime industry

The Human Element has been developed from the award-winning book by the MCA. This is not merely the ‘film of the book’; with the assistance of the original authors – Dik Gregory and Paul Shanahan of GS Partnership – the film takes the concepts of the book and presents them in a more concise manner, making them easier to digest and put to practical use.

The DVD also includes the 32 page Facilitator’s Training Book, that makes up about 50% of this training resource. The book allows the film to be better understood, and the concepts more easily absorbed and remembered, by prompting thought and discussion amongst the audience. The book can be used by the lone viewer, but is intended ideally for use with a group audience.

The film is aimed at creating greater operational mindfulness, thereby allowing safety, rather than danger, to emerge from human behaviour.

SUGAR analysis

The drama follows a fictional (but typical) incident, loosely based on an actual event, in which several characters play an unwitting part in the grounding of their vessel.

The film’s present time is an interview room, in which an incident investigator is working with the vessel operator to uncover how the incident has come about. Interviews with the officers and crew, called in one by one, give way to flashbacks where the action is played out. Each character’s testimony makes it easy for the operator – and therefore the audience – to point the finger at the person just interviewed. But each time this is countered by the investigator who wants to expose the underlying reasons why each person acted the way they did.

The Human Element film - the Master tells his side of the story

In so doing the investigator shows why each person’s behaviour made sense to them at the time, and how a common set of biases that are always at play in people went unnoticed and therefore unchallenged by the unwitting participants, so producing the incident. Just as the owner/operator thinks the investigation is done, the investigator puts him in the hot seat too, and shows how yet another bias was operating in him as well.

In the final scene, the investigator makes his presentation to the board. This scene shows how the secret is knowing what these biases are, how they affect human behaviour and how they can be countered. With more flashbacks, we see the main characters in action again, this time checking themselves. We see how any one of these checks could have prevented the incident developing into what happened, and we begin to glimpse how normal human behaviour most often doesn’t lead to disaster, but that in some circumstances, when everybody is being unmindful, the very same human behaviour can have large consequences.

The film is presented as a series of individual modules that can be interrupted for discussion by a facilitator, or else allowed to run seamlessly one after the other – so allowing for a wide variety of training contexts. The film is suitable for crew members and shore staff at all levels within the organisation – indeed for it to be successful it should be compulsory viewing for each and every employee, emphasising the fact that everyone has their role to play in creating a culture of safety within the organisation.

KVH Media Group firmly believe that The Human Element will occupy a unique place in maritime safety training, building on the work of GS Partnership, the MCA and their partners.

Download a preview copy of the Facilitator Notes included with the DVD

You can download a PDF copy of The Human Element book here.

You can purchase a hard copy of the Human Element book from the TSO.