The urgent need to adopt a good Safety Culture onboard

CHIRP has seen an increasing number of reports where there has been an enhanced risk of danger due to seafarers taking short cuts and violating procedures. A strong safety culture onboard is one where such behaviours are treated as unacceptable and this safety culture is clearly seen during the planning and com – pletion of all work. Emphasis should be placed on the use of toolbox talks and to adopting an attitude amongst fellow crew members of ‘being your brother’s keeper’ or ‘adopt a buddy’ i.e. looking out for each other in matters of safety and use of safety equipment and mentoring of other members of staff, in particular those new to the working environment onboard. The following are extracts of reports we have received relating to hazardous incidents, they reveal the danger of allowing a weak safety culture to exist without challenge.

Report 1:

An Able Seaman (AB) was painting a high point at the bridge deck using a portable ladder that was not properly secured. The OOW observed the practice and did not warn the AB. Due to the movement of the ladder the AB fell but luckily was not injured.

Causal factors: Failure to follow Company’s Work Permit System (Working Aloft); the supervisor bosun failed to provided safety instructions for the work; OOW failed to stop the AB when he observed the unsafe condition.

Report 2:

During maintenance of the hose-handling crane, an AB was standing at height without having fastened his safety harness.

Lessons Learned: During the work planning process, the officers and supervisors should always think/review/ consider the potential hazards involved in the work activities, including the applicable PPE requirements, work permits and job hazard assessments. Then they should provide the necessary safety instructions to the crew prior to the commencement of the work activities.

Report 3:

AB was working aloft marking the lifeboat’s name without wearing a safety harness. The bosun was in attendance and the company’s ‘work aloft’ procedures were not being implemented.

Lessons learned: It is important that the supervisor always include safety instructions when issuing work instructions.

Report 4:

During a tanker vetting inspection it was identified that an AB on watch carried a non-intrinsically safe torch.

Lessons Learned: Check and confirm that all torches onboard are of the intrinsically safe type, approved by a competent authority. If private torches are onboard, collect and keep them in safe custody under the responsibility of the chief officer and return on signing off. The causal factor is the failure to administer effective safety checks before commencing cargo opera tions. This may be due to complacency or pressure to minimise the time taken on paperwork. Also, the supply of equipment to the ship when being used onboard in flammable areas should be identified and adopted in the procurement practices. Head office staff should not forget they have a role in the establishment of a robust safety culture onboard.

Report 5:

Second Engineer and Engineer Cadet not wearing proper PPE.

Lesson Learned: Senior officers are responsible to ensure a safe working environment for the crew onboard, establish a prominent safety culture and lead by example on safety issues.

Report 6:

The duty engineer went into the engine room to check an alarm during a UMS period; he was improperly dressed, wearing T-shirt, shorts and slippers. He justified his action stating that it was just a few minutes job. The causal factors are complacency and rule breaking behaviours through the personnel taking short cuts. Ship’s personnel were reminded that PPE is provided for their own safety: use of proper PPE is not only a requirement but also a safety need.

Report 7:

A duty engineer entered the engine room during a UMS period at night without activating the Dead Man Alarm.

Lesson learned: Discuss this incident with engine room personnel, pointing out that the ER Dead Man Alarm is fitted for their own safety. It should be used at all times when attending the ER during UMS periods. A warning/ guidance notice was prepared by the company and posted at specific locations for personnel guidance. Failure to properly use the safety procedures on the vessel may lead to a serious personal accident.

Report 8:

Engineer cadet was trying to cut rags on the grinding machine.

Cause: inadequate safety familiarisation, supervision and guidance.

Lessons learned: Unauthorized use of a machine often results in accidents or damages, often because the person using the machine has not been properly trained. It is important that the ship’s responsible personnel should put in place the necessary protection against unauthorized use. Heads of departments should ensure that crewmembers do not carry out work activities unless they are planned and/or discussed with their supervisors. Ship’s personnel should never use ship’s machinery, tools and equipment unless they are authorized by their supervisors to do so, or have direct responsibility to operate, inspect and maintain specific machinery or equipment. Cadets must not be allowed to operate machinery and equipment unless they have permission from their supervisors/trainers and they are properly supervised during the activity