Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
ISSN: 0014-0139 (Print) 1366-5847 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/terg20
Logistic transport in extreme environments: the
evolution of risk and safety management over 27
years of the polar traverse
Aude Villemain & Patrice Godon
To cite this article: Aude Villemain & Patrice Godon (2020) Logistic transport in extreme
environments: the evolution of risk and safety management over 27 years of the polar traverse,
Ergonomics, 63:10, 1257-1270, DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2020.1777329
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139.2020.1777329
Published online: 18 Jun 2020.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 46
View related articles
View Crossmark data
Logistic transport in extreme environments: the evolution of risk and safety
management over 27 years of the polar traverse
Aude Villemain
and Patrice Godon
CIAMS Laboratory, COST Collegium Science & Technology, University of Orleans, Paris-Saclay, Orleans, France;
Research Centre on
Work and Development (CRTD), Ergonomics Team, CNAM, Paris, France;
epartement logistique polaire, French Polar Institute (IPEV)
Paul Emile Victor, Plouzane, France
In this article we seek to explain how safety mechanisms and risks evolve over time. The article
focuses on a sociotechnical system, that of a polar traverse (a transport operation in a polar
environment). In the study spanning a period of 27 years data were collected with ethnographic
participative observations on three of the 56 traverses already achieved. Activities were traced
from the whole 1398 daily reports and scale models of the convoy vehicles were used to recon-
struct events during the traverses. Self-confrontation interviews were also conducted. A traverse
feedback process was carried out which revealed that (1) whereas proactive safety is aimed at
maintaining the continuous improvement of a system, reactive safety makes it possible to main-
tain the systems level of safety; (2) the development of redundancy and mixed technology con-
tribute positively to the safety system. Improvements made to the safety system, its dynamics,
and embodied resilience are discussed as well as the study limitations and implications.
Practitioner summary: This article seeks to understand how safety has been ensured in logis-
tical transport in extreme conditions in a case study extending over a period of more than
27 years. The study investigates how risks and safety mechanisms have evolved and the benefits
of developing a traverse feedback process to improve safety.
Abbreviations: IPEV: French Polar Institute (Institut Polaire Francais); DDU: Dumont dUrville
(French coastal antarctic station)
Received 20 January 2017
Accepted 4 May 2020
Proactive-reactive safety;
extreme situations;
dynamics; risks; system
1. Background
This research was conducted in collaboration with the
French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor (in French,
Institut polaire Paul Emile Victor- IPEV). The construction
project for the scientific station Concordia (first winter-
ing in 2005) was at the origin of the first polar traverse
in 1992. Concordia is located on the Antarctic continent
1,150 kilometres inland from the French coastal scien-
tific station, Dumont dUrville (DDU) (Figure 1). At its
inception in 1992, the goal was to create a reliable and
economic means of transportation for the construction
equipment and supplies needed on the remote site of
the permanent Franco-Italian station, Concordia. The
traverse, which is a group of vehicles and their loads
moving in convoy across the Antarctic continent in
complete autonomy, connects both stations three times
during austral summers. The duration of the round trip
DDU-Concordia is approximately 23 days during which
different situations occur; some of these situations are
anticipated (Villemain and Godon 2017), others
are unforeseen.
The standard convoy is composed of approximately
10 people driving three snow trains towing sleds loaded
with containers and fuel tanks. Two or three levelling
machines can be added to this convoy (Figure 2). The
main objective is to convey the goods to the site as
quickly as possible with the best fuel efficiency.
Even if there have been no major accidents so far,
operational and/or technical incidents have regularly
occurred during the traverse journey (for more infor-
mation, see Villemain and Godon 2015; 2017). This is
the context of the present research.
There is a long tradition of using ergonomics to
examine safety and reliability (Amalberti and Hourlier
2007; Weick 1987), however, few studies have investi-
gated safety and reliability in hostile environments. The
CONTACT Aude Villemain aude.villemain@univ-orleans.fr CIAMS Laboratory, COST Collegium Science & Technology, University of Orleans, Paris-
Saclay, 2 All
ee du Ch
ateau, Orleans 45067, France
ß 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
2020, VOL. 63, NO. 10, 12571270