Ship’s Safety Officer

The ship’s Safety Officer on board has health and safety as the most important issues to handle. The safety of ship and the crew must be kept at high level of priority.

It is obvious that the risk assessments are already done on various matters prior undertaking a task or an incident, etc. The investigations are undertaken after an incident or accident. The ship safety officer makes recommendations to the Master on health and safety matters. Safety officer keeps an eye for potential hazards and looks for possible solutions to prevent incidents / accidents. A very high standard of safety consciousness amongst the crew as well as an environment of safety in the work place are both very important.

Following documents / instruments are the guiding tools for the safety officer:
1. ISM Code: The objectives of ISM code in respect of safety must be brought to practice.
2. The code of safe working practices: The safety officer must use the guidance and work instructions to ensure due safety.
3. Statutory regulations and company safety procedures.

A careful attendance to small and basic issues may avert big accidents as stated below:

  • ladders and stairs are kept lit and safe;
  • appropriate warning notices are put in various parts of ship as required;
  • deck eyes, in pilot board areas and other areas of deck are painted white;
  • anti-skid paint is used where appropriate;
  • warning signs are placed or appropriate measures are taken in accesses where overhead clearance is not sufficient;
  • there are no moving object, left unsecured;
  • motors and electrical equipment are suitable for exposed weather;
  • grease or dirt is not left uncleaned after a job; openings, through which a person can fall, are fenced suitably; etc.

A crew member must be provided with following:
1. Safety equipment and gear for the job.
2. Protective gear of standard quality.
3. Work instructions with safety tips.
4. Suitable tools.

Safety Committee

  • Safety committee is formed on ships under the guidance and leadership of the Master.
  • The safety committee comprises of the safety officer and a team of competent persons representing various issues on safety. Crew members are often included in the committee to ensure representation of people on ground.
  • Committee works towards the objective to ensure safe working practices and standards are not compromised at any cost
  • Committee also makes recommendations regarding enhancement of occupational health and safety measures.
  • The records of: meetings; safety related instructions; implementation of health and safety policies is made. The same is recorded in the official log book too.
  • New regulations, tools, technologies, safety publications, etc are discussed out.
  • The investigation details and accident reports are analysed.

Conduct of Safety Meetings

  • The trainer must be well versed with the latest regulations, technologies, etc
  • Time of conducting the safety meeting should be such that neither the work of ship nor the rest hours are affected.
  • The agenda of the meeting must be displayed and made available to everyone on ship.
  • Group size may be specific concerning a particular job or subject or may be larger at times but personal touch must be maintained during the meetings.
  • A very long and dull meeting may be deterrent. To avoid this, the timings topics and contents must be planned well.
  • To make the best use of the time, the meetings should be interactive.
  • The crew must be encouraged and motivated to ask questions, doubts, etc. They may share their experience too.
  • New amendments, bulletins and circulars should be discussed and their importance to be explained.
  • The meeting must be concluded well.

Various terms in respect of Investigation on board

  • Incident: An unplanned sequence of events and/or conditions that results in, or could have reasonably resulted in, a loss event.
  • Consequences: Undesirable or unexpected outcomes may result in negative effects for an organization.
  • Loss Event: Undesirable consequences resulting from events or conditions or a combination of these.
  • Accident: An incident with unexpected or undesirable consequences. The consequences may be related to personnel injury or fatality, property loss, environmental impact, business loss.
  • Near Miss:  An incident with no consequences, but that could have reasonably resulted in consequences under different conditions. , etc. or a combination of these.
  • Root Cause Analysis (RCA) An analysis that identifies the causal factors, intermediate causes and root causes of an incident and develops recommendations to address each level of the analysis.
  • Apparent Cause Analysis (ACA) An analysis that identifies the causal factors for the event and develops recommendations to address them, but does not necessarily identify the root causes of the incident.

A crew member slips and falls on the deck. He sprains his leg very badly. He would be given appropriate medical treatment but this incident needs due investigation. The idea being something needs to be learnt from this incident. The various questions that could be used to further examine the situation could include:

  • What is the location of fall?
  • What was the approximate time of accident
  • What was the weather condition?
  • Did the rough weather contribute to bad fall?
  • How did he fall?
  • Is the injury external, internal?
  • Was there any eye witness?
  • Was the crew wearing appropriate work shoes?
  • Was the deck slippery?
  • Are there conditions like this on other vessels in our fleet that could prove problematic?
  • Are the shoes (sole) made up of appropriate material?
  • If the sole is made of the wrong material and the work shoes were not of standard quality, why were they purchased?
  • What is the method used in procuring the store?
  • Is there a method whereby the procured stores are checked for being appropriate?
  • Was any work carried out on deck prior the incident?
  • Was the deck cleaned properly after the work was accomplished?

General casual factors:

  • The deck hand fell due skidding on deck.
  • In the evening hours, there was reduced daylight.
  • A torchlight was not used while walking on deck.

Specific casual factors:

  • The sole of the shoe was not of appropriate quality.
  • The deck area was not clean.

Root cause:

  • There was no proper system of selecting a vendor.
  • There was no method of confirming the quality of products received.
  • The procedures as written in the ship’s SMS were not followed properly.

Root cause analysis (RCA)
Identifying root causes is one of the main goals of the incident investigation process, but it is heavily dependent on finding the causal factors. For each causal factor, it must be determined why the causal factor existed or occurred. This usually leads to identification of missing, failed or inadequate management systems. Root cause identification should not be started until the causal factors have been identified. Improper path will lead to the identification of invalid underlying causes and, therefore, invalid recommendations.

One of the initial things that must be done in an RCA is to realize the problem. Thus, the problem may be in respect of material, people, human factors, policy, etc. Thus the questions like, how the event occurred and how is it associable with problem; how long has the problem existed; effect of the problem on daily operations; etc must be assessed.

Collecting sufficient data should be the next thing. A large number of opinions must be collected at this stage. Having done above, the associated causal factors can be identified now.

Identifying a timeline and thinking of questions will cause emergence of specific causal factors. A conclusion can now be drawn in respect of clear outlining of the problem and identifying the symptoms of it.  Now the complete information can be assembled together and a conclusion can be drawn. Each causal factor is considered asking “why, until the root cause is found. Lastly, any necessary changes must be implemented.

Tool Box talks
Tool box talks should cover various issues in respect of the job to be done, at length. The person who is addressing, must come prepared well and should have a pocket book with check list to make sure that he has covered everything. The tool box talks should be given before the job but the communication in respect of any query in respect of the job must continue even during the job. In fact, the discussion can continue even after the job is finished.

It is very important for the crew to know why a job must be done. If the crew is in tune with the maintenance program, etc. of the ship, it would be easier to assign them the task. The sequence and planning must be placed in front of the crew. Considering the place of work, the risk factors and specific precautions which must be taken, individual responsibility is explained.

The suggestions from past experiences are encouraged. Some crew members may be hesitant in sharing their experiences where actually they might have had the first hand experience of the specific job. The various factors like the length of job, the possible distractive factors, weather conditions, etc. must be considered. The safety items required in the site as well as the personal protective items will be listed out and made available. Work permit will give information about necessary PPE. Tools materials and the other equipment and any isolation that are needed.

Record that you have held a Toolbox Talk – when, where, who attended and briefly what was said. This is good practice, as it provides evidence for future audit and investigation purposes.

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