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 April 2007
GERRY MILLER is the principal contributor of the original ASTM F 1166 and the 2007 revision. He has been employed for 44 years as a human factors engineer with 30 years as a human factors engineering consultant in the marine industry. He has authored over 70 papers, reports and articles on integration of human factors engineering into the design of military and commercial ships and offshore structures.

CHRISTOPHER PARKER is a major contributor to the ASTM F 1166 2007 revision. He is a human factors engineer with BMT Designers & Planners, Inc., and is educated and has practiced in maritime applications of human factors engineering, ergonomics and related disciplines for government and commercial maritime clients. He is currently the human factors engineering lead for surface assets on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Deepwater Program.

An ASTM International Seminar on Human Systems Integration and Human Factors Engineering will be held May 23 at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va. Sponsored by ASTM Committee F25 on Ships and Marine Technology in cooperation with the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, the seminar will be held in conjunction with the May 21-24 standards development meetings of the committee.

An introduction to the newly revised ASTM International standard F 1166 will be provided. Specifically, there will be an overview of human factors engineering and ASTM F 1166, its organization, origin and principles, as well as how it should be used by individuals such as design agents and vendor-supplied equipment manufacturers. In addition, the participant will learn about the U.S. Navy’s human systems integration program, the role of ASTM F 1166 in human systems integration, and requirements for certification in this area. A copy of standard F 1166 and the user-friendly version in CD format will be distributed to seminar attendees.

ASTM Human Systems Integration/Human Factors Engineering Seminar

For information about the seminar, which includes a program agenda, registration, and hotel details, go to www.astm.org, click on Symposia and Workshops, click on Future Symposia and scroll down to F25 Ships and Marine Technology.
Additional information about the seminar is available from seminar chairman Howard Hime of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Human Engineering Design for Marine Systems

Human factors engineering, or human engineering, is a discipline for systematically applying the research into human physical, social and psychological capabilities and limitations to the design of systems. ASTM International standard F 1166, Practice for Human Engineering Design for Marine Systems, Equipment and Facilities, which was first published in 1988, provides specific design criteria to ensure safe and usable interactions between the human and marine facilities, structures, systems and equipment in both commercial and military design environments.

As a wide-ranging standard, F 1166, which is under the jurisdiction of ASTM International Committee F25 on Ships and Marine Technology, addresses all marine design elements from controls, displays and alarms to stairs and ladders, labels and computers, valves and workplace arrangement. It provides anthropometric data (human physical dimensions) for international populations to be used when making design decisions based on an operator’s or maintainer’s size and/or posture. It also provides environmental design criteria, including recommended levels and limits for noise, vibration, lighting and climate. Engineers can use the information included in this foundational design standard to develop safe marine systems that promote optimal human performance.

Design standards involving human factors engineering are not static; they are intended to evolve as the research, design and engineering community constantly learns about human interactions with technology and the work environment. This is no exception in the marine human factors engineering field, since ongoing research and experience improves criteria for safe and efficient marine systems design.

ASTM is aware of this necessary evolution and therefore requires regular review of its standards every five years. Consequently, F 1166 was revised in 1995, 2000 and 2006. Recently, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command Human Systems Integration Directorate initiated a significant revision of this standard to make it technically current and user-friendly.

Revision Goals

There were three goals for the revision of F 1166:

1. Update the format to make the document more usable and improve information presentation.
2. Update and prioritize the content to meet the technical demands of current military and commercial marine systems.
3. Make the revised standard more compatible with other current human factors engineering design standards.

These goals were based on the evolution of marine human factors engineering and extensive experience gained in the use of this standard in the design of military and commercial ships and offshore oil and gas structures over the 18 years since the standard was created.


Structure – Great pains were taken to make the standard more usable, especially since the document emphasizes design for maximum human performance. One of the most frequent complaints about the earlier versions of F 1166 was the difficulty of finding tables and figures since they did not immediately follow the referencing text. While the print version will remain in traditional ASTM format, the online product will include a user-friendly version with tables and figures immediately following the referenced text. In addition, most tables and figures were completely reconstructed to facilitate readability and usability. The restructuring included standardizing minimum text size and listing all dimensions and measurements in both metric and English units. In addition, new figures were developed and inserted to illustrate critical concepts.

Clarity – During the revision process, the decision was made to make the design criteria more stringent; this was accomplished by using language that provides clear and supportable application of the criteria. The term “shall” is used for mandatory design criteria, “should” for design criteria that are required unless specifically precluded by waiver from the procuring agency, and “may” for design criteria that are optional (provided the procuring agency is made aware). Every effort was made to eliminate terms like “where practicable,” “when feasible,” and “where necessary” that frequently appeared in the older versions of the standard. These changes are intended to allow fewer opportunities for users to deviate or omit human factors engineering design criteria from the ship or offshore facility design.

New Checklist – A human factors engineering design checklist was created and added to F 1166 as an appendix (Figure 1). This checklist was added to provide ship and offshore facility designers with a way to quickly and easily verify the application of the human factors engineering criteria as outlined in the standard. The checklist is tied directly to the criteria in the standard and is organized by section and specific topic area so that designers may locate a topic in which they have an interest.

Eliminating Unnecessary Text – At the inception of the revision effort, a line-by-line review was performed to purge the standard of all non-essential information. This information consisted of two elements:
1. Technical data requirements that had been included in the original standard but had been found, through the past 18 years, to be of no or limited value in the design of marine equipment.
2. Explanatory information simply supporting or justifying a particular design requirement. The inclusion of this information made the first versions of F 1166 appear more like a textbook on human factors engineering design rather than a design standard. It was subsequently decided that the revised standard should strictly provide technical design requirements.

Technical Content

Feedback and Peer Review – In order to provide a more complete and updated standard, multiple means were used to develop and verify the technical information required for the revision effort. These included user feedback, current research and experience in the field of marine human factors engineering, and the application of lessons learned in risk mitigation and prevention from marine incidents and accidents. To ensure the completeness of the revision, a thorough peer review process was accomplished using a team of marine human factors engineering experts. A core list of these individuals was developed and used for every section; particular subject matter experts contributed to specific topic areas. The result is a standard that not only meets the demands of the user population, but also provides the latest in human factors engineering research combined with the experience of years of applying human factors engineering by experts in the field.

Incorporation of Known Design Issues – Emphasis was placed on ensuring that design criteria included in the revised standard address current and well-documented human factors engineering-related design issues in the marine industry. For example, the Naval Safety Center has identified stairs and ladders as the source of the most frequent and costly type of accident on U.S. Navy ships. Offshore platforms and drilling rigs experience the same issues. Therefore, criteria for the design of access aids such as stairs, ladders, walkways, ramps, lightening holes, and manways were extensively researched and addressed accordingly in the revision.

The revision also includes a set of new vertical ladder design criteria (Figure 2) to prevent a specific type of fall. An investigation of fatal falls from vertical ladders revealed that the victims slipped from the second or third rung from the bottom of a ladder, causing them to fall backward below the bottom of the ladder cage but over the top of the adjacent handrail. The revision design criteria will prevent this type of accident from occurring again.

Similarly, the older versions of the standard allow inclined ladders to exceed inclination angles of 60°. However, based upon U.S. Navy safety data on trips and falls, an offshore oil and gas industry study of stair and ladder falls on rigs, and extensive academic research conducted on falls from stairs, it was found that stair angles should not exceed 50°. The revised standard reflects this new stair design criteria. It is acknowledged that the new design criteria are not likely to be popular with shipbuilders who have used steeper stairs of more than 60° for decades. However, the data clearly show that stairs in excess of 50° are less safe, and can cause accidents.

As another example, the revised standard recommends using round pipe for vertical ladder stringers rather than flat bar, which has been the practice in the marine industry for years. Round pipe stringers improve safety and climber comfort by significantly improving the hand’s grasping ability, especially on long run ladders, although round pipe stringers may be more labor-intensive to fabricate.

With the current focus on computer use in marine systems, design criteria applicable to human-computer interaction were greatly increased and improved in the revision. Many U.S. Department of Defense and commercial standards and guidelines were referenced during the development of the new human-computer interaction section in order to incorporate the latest research and reflect what is now a clear reliance on computers as a means to facilitate improved human performance.

These significant updates to the design criteria, while sometimes controversial, are based on human factors engineering, ergonomic research and lessons learned with the sole purpose of improving safety and human performance.

Applicability to International User Community – With the increased application of ASTM F 1166 as an international design standard, a greater focus was placed on designing for international seagoing populations in the revised standard. Consequently, international data on human anthropometrics, manual lifting and carrying capabilities, reach and visual envelopes and overhead clearances were included in the standard for the first time. Older versions of the standard provide anthropometric data based on U.S. military personnel. One practical example of the increased significance of international standards is the fact that the Philippines provide more seagoing personnel than any other country in the world, and almost every commercial ship or offshore structure is manned by some number of individuals from Southeast Asia. These sailors have smaller dimensions and ship designers must define the user population and provide clearance and access dimensions accordingly.

User-Derived Data – New research data and experientially-derived input from sailors and offshore workers was used in the ASTM revision. As a result, the development of the revised standard sometimes involved changing the criteria that had appeared in the initial version, and even criteria that appears in other standards with similar criteria. For example, a U.S. Navy study found that sailors cannot easily discern the difference in hazard levels between “danger” and “warning” and tend to ignore “warning” signs. Based on this information, the revised standard recommends using only two types of hazard warnings, “danger” and “caution,” and does not include “warning” as a third category as was required in the initial version of the standard as well as in American National Standards Institute labeling standards.

New Sections Added – Where certain human factors engineering topic areas have become a significant concern in the marine industry, new sections have been added to the revised standard. One example is new design criteria for manual material handling. Also, having learned from the last 18 years that valve access is a significant area in need of improvement in ship and offshore facility design, there is a new section solely devoted to valves that describes design criteria for valve placement, orientation, location and operating forces. Also, the concept of determining a valve’s criticality as the criteria on which its access is based has been introduced in the revised standard. Previously, criteria for valve location and orientation were embedded in the topic areas of “Workstation Design” and “Maintainability” but have since been broken out in a separate section.

Compatibility with Other Standards

In order to facilitate use of the standard by the commercial marine industry and to leverage commercial shipping and offshore human factors engineering research, other marine human factors engineering standards were extensively consulted during the revision of F 1166. Human factors, ergonomics and habitability criteria and guidelines developed by the commercial shipping and offshore industries or established by international commercial regulatory bodies such as the International Maritime Organization were included or referenced in the F 1166 revision. In particular, human factors engineering marine design criteria produced and published by the American Bureau of Shipping was extensively consulted and incorporated into the revised standard.


A testament to the utility of F 1166 (and the need for a significant revision) is its ever-increasing use as the primary, or exclusive, human factors engineering design standard for new ship and offshore facilities design contracts both in the U.S. and overseas. Also of note, a major offshore exploration and production company operating in the Gulf of Mexico has announced that they intend to adopt the latest revision as its design standard for human factors engineering in the design of all of their future offshore platforms and shore-based facilities as soon as it is published by ASTM. As with all standards, F 1166 must be updated regularly to reflect current trends in the field and research on which the criteria is based. Additionally, lessons learned and collected from users of the document should also be incorporated into any further revisions. The latest revision to F 1166 is and will continue to be a powerful resource and tool for years to come in which to compile the latest human factors engineering criteria and “best practices” and ultimately, to effectively improve safety and human performance on marine systems. //


American Bureau of Shipping, Guidance Notes on the Application of Ergonomics to Marine Systems, American Bureau of Shipping, New York, N.Y., 2003.

American Bureau of Shipping, Guide for Crew Habitability on Ships, American Bureau of Shipping: New York, N.Y., 2001.

American Society of Testing and Materials, Standard Practice for Human Engineering Design for Marine Systems, Equipment, and Facilities, Standard F1166-95a (2006). West Conshohocken, PA 1995.

U.S. Department of Defense, Design Criteria Standard: Human Engineering (MIL-STD-1472F), Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998.