A COVID-19 outbreak on board ship: Analysis of the sociotechnical system of epidemiological management in the French Navy

Saf Sci. 2021 Aug;140:105296. doi: 10.1016/j.ssci.2021.105296. Epub 2021 Apr 13.


In late 2019, an epidemic of SARS-CoV-2 broke out in central China. Within a few months, this new virus had spread right across the globe, officially being classified as a pandemic on 11 March 2020. In France, which was also being affected by the virus, the government applied specific epidemiological management strategies and introduced unprecedented public health measures. This article describes the outbreak management system that was applied within the French military and, more specifically, analyzes an outbreak of COVID-19 that occurred on board a nuclear aircraft carrier. We applied the AcciMap systemic analysis approach to understand the course of events that led to the outbreak and identify the relevant human and organizational failures. Results highlight causal factors at several levels of the outbreak management system. They reveal problems with the benchmarks used for diagnosis and decision-making, and underscore the importance of good communication between different levels. We discuss ways of improving epidemiological management in military context.

Keywords: AcciMap; COVID-19; Complex socio-technical system; Incident analysis; Outbreak management; Risk management framework.