Working conditions in the engine department - A qualitative study among engine room personnel on board Swedish merchant ships
Journal article, 2011

The specific problems associated with the work on board within the merchant fleet are well known and have over the years been a topic of discussion. The work conditions in the engine room (ER) are demanding due to, e.g. the thermal climate, noise and awkward working postures. The work in the engine control room (ECR) has over recent years undergone major changes, mainly due to the introduction of computers on board. In order to capture the impact these changes had implied, and also to investigate how the work situation has developed, a total of 20 engine officers and engine ratings were interviewed. The interviews were semi-structured and Grounded Theory was used for the data analysis. The aim of the present study was to describe how the engine crew perceive their work situation and working environment on board. Further, the aim was to identify areas for improvements which the engine crew consider especially important for a safe and effective work environment. The result of the study shows that the design of the ECR and ER is crucial for how different tasks are performed. Design which does not support operational procedures and how tasks are performed risk inducing inappropriate behaviour as the crew members’ are compelled to find alternative ways to perform their tasks in order to get the job done. These types of behaviour can induce an increased risk of exposure to hazardous substances and the engine crew members becoming injured.

Engine Room

Grounded Theory


Work Place Design

Engine control room

Engine Officers


Monica Lundh

Chalmers, Shipping and Marine Technology, Division of Maritime Operations

Margareta Lützhöft

Chalmers, Shipping and Marine Technology, Division of Maritime Operations

Leif Rydstedt

Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

Joakim Dahlman

Chalmers, Shipping and Marine Technology, Division of Maritime Operations

Applied Ergonomics

0003-6870 (ISSN)

Vol. 42 2 384-390

Areas of Advance


Subject Categories

Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified



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