How can we stregthen the safety culture? SEAHEALTH presents The 8 Safety Links which can be used as tools to build up a good safety culture.
There are many good reasons for shipowners to focus on the safety culture. Apart from groundings and shipwrecks, there is probably nothing that upsets operations more than industrial accidents. There are many after-effects. An accident may have immense consequences for the person concerned but quite apart from purely personal loss, there are also losses for the company. Such as the loss of absence or good seamen, the costs of recruitment and training, having less experienced crew for a while, delays to the voyage schedule and subsequent repairs. And it can affect the company’s reputation for reliability.
Customers are increasingly assessing companies on the basis of their safety. Safety has become a parameter on an equal footing with finance and has become a way on which businesses are operated. If safety is not in order, it can affect competitiveness. This is why there is increasing focus on the safety culture and the safety of seamen in the sector.
Building up or improving the safety culture always means shared responsibilities. Right from the company down to the individual seaman. Everyone in the company needs to be convinced that the entire organisation puts safety first. It all ceases to have any meaning if compromises are made to safety in busy periods or if safety gets too expensive or inconvenient. In creating the framework and opportunities for a safe working environment, the company plays a core role in implementing initiatives to ensure that its systems support the desired approach.
The model ”The 8 Safety Links”is Seahealth’s offering of a whole range of tools for developing and strengthening ship-owners’ safety culture so that in time, safety is appreciated and practiced by everyone
It's all about people
Safety culture is about people. How do the crew behave and what behaviour does the company expect and reward? For example, is it normal to do something about the risks associated with a job and to take the time to take risks into account? Do people intervene if they see someone else doing something risky?
In companies with a high safety culture, safety has become integral to the way people think and work. Individuals see themselves, their workmates and the company as part of an organisation in which safety forms an integral part of the way the ship is operated. Everyone feels responsible for safety and endeavours to put it first in their day-to-day routines.
Seamen on a vessel with a good safety culture do more than they are required to do. They identify unsafe situations and conduct and they intervene to rectify unsafe situations. Workmates look after each other and make each other aware of unsafe conduct.
Research shows that developing a strong safety culture has the greatest impact on cutting the number of accidents.
What is a safety culture?
When talking about safety and work, there are many different standards, assumptions, values, attitudes, myths and stories that affect the way daily work is actually done. This applies to the company and crew, managers and employees.
Nowadays, most companies have technical solutions and systems in place. They have drawn up policies and procedures to raise the level of safety aboard. Even so, some companies have unfortunately found out that it is not easy to get employees to act as safely as the company would wish. None of us wants to be injured so why don’t we do what we have been told? In reality, the answer is perfectly simple: ”Because we are humans …..”
What may seem perfectly sensible in systems and rules may perhaps mean less to the people who have to comply with them in practice. There may be various other things that appear more pressing than safety. What is it in a specific situation that individuals feel is important? That is what controls the way we act, think and our attitudes.
When a seaman goes up the gangway to join a ship, he becomes part of its safety culture. In the majority of cases, he can see and sense immediately whether safety is taken seriously or not. The way people talk about safety tells him how he needs to act and work. If there are clear rules about safety and it is possible and ’right’ in the shipboard culture to comply with them, there is a greater probability that new crew will do so also.
As humans, we adapt to social systems and relationships and this affects the way we act. If we wish to affect how the crew behave, we need to take a holistic approach to the crew’s situation and provide support and backup all the way round.
Click on the links on the chain and see the specific tools, how you can get going.
How can the safety culture be strengtened?
Making a stronger safety culture requires action to be taken in many areas. The 8 Safety Links reflect the most important links in establishing a good safety culture. The point is that we need to work with all the links to ensure that the project is successful and that the chain does not ’jump off’.
Even though Safety Management System and risk assessment documents have been drawn up and are in order, safety awareness and hence the way individuals act may not be present and if an accident does unfortunately happen, it will reflect how strong the safety culture is.
What is interesting is why things that are written down have not been observed or complied with. The reasons may be a lack of employee acceptance and involvement, the fact that what has been written down does not actually fit with the way the job is done, that the manager was not a good role model or a lack of consistency in dealing with non-compliance with safety procedures.
The old saying is that no chain is stronger than its weakest link. The 8 Safety Links symbolise that the safety culture is no stronger than the weakest link. Each of the 8 Safety Links is associated with tools.The tools support and build up good safety behaviour. The more safety links the company maintains, the stronger the whole chain. The fewer safety links the company has in place, the weaker the chain. Making a stronger safety culture requires action to be taken in many areas. The 8 Safety Links reflect the most important links in establishing a good safety culture. The point is that we need to work with all the links to ensure that the project is successful and that the chain does not ’jump off’.
Senior Occupational Health Consultant
Søren Bøge Pedersen
+45 3311 1833
+45 5364 1609
I can help you with:
- The 8 Safety Links
- Accident prevention in general
- Guidance on mooring
- Welfare-enhancing projects
- The program Health and Safety at Sea