Better risk assessments with help from the crew

Simple, clear templates for risk assessments. Suggestions for how risks can be examined methodically and texts that explain the importance of doing it. On commission from Wallenius, Ida Larsson is working out a clearer concept of work environment and safety in the shipping company.
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Simple, clear templates for risk assessments. Suggestions for how risks can be examined methodically and texts that explain the importance of doing it. On commission from Wallenius, Ida Larsson is working out a clearer concept of work environment and safety in the shipping company.

Ida Larsson usually works as third mate on Fedora, but has been working since last spring with the project to facilitate risk assessments. Private photograph.

Most people probably know that risk assessments are required for dangerous work onboard. But how they should be implemented, how the level of risk should be assessed and how often they should be made is perhaps not so obvious. Wallenius Marine is currently running a project to facilitate risk assessments and make them more uniform between different vessels. The work is being led by Ida Larsson, who is normally third mate on Fedora but since the spring she has been based at the head office in Stockholm. She is convinced that the new system will lead to better assessments.
More support
“You get much more support for how assessments should be made and I have included proposals for different methods that can be used. The fact that systematic work environment activities are digital and are posted on our intranet and integrated with the maintenance programme will lead to better visibility and a greater opportunity to learn from each other.”
She has developed a new template for risk analyses. The risk of a certain event occurring during a specific job is assessed on a five-point scale, from very unlikely to probable. A similar assessment of the consequences if the event occurs is then made, also on a scale of one to five. Finally, the risk is multiplied by the consequence. If the result is four or more then measures are required, but a documented action plan as well as a new assessment and calculation must be made before work can begin.
“Let’s take an example – working at heights where someone has to climb the mast. It may be cold and icy and the risk of falling is assessed as four. The injuries sustained if someone falls could be very serious and so the consequences are five. It is then written in the action plan that a harness must be used and a new assessment is made. The risk of falling is still a four, but the harness has reduced the consequences down to one and the work can be carried out,” says Ida Larsson.
The analysis form includes brief explanations of how risks and consequences should be assessed.
“Some might think that cutting yourself is a five, while another person considers a five to be when the ship sinks. You need something to go by so that assessments will be similar.”
“When risk assessments are made, not only personal injury should be taken into account but also psychosocial risks, mechanical damage, oil spills and delays,” says Ida Larsson.
According to the Work Environment Act, a risk analysis must be made prior to any work that could lead to accidents or ill-health. A variety of risky jobs are carried out every week onboard, but if a written analysis must be made on every occasion there is a risk that the process eventually becomes routine and the analysis is made without closer thought. To prevent this, Ida Larsson has added an analysis aid with examples of factors that can change from one day to the next. These may include fatigue, weather, icing and heavy seas.
“When I talked to crews out on the ships they did not always think that simple was best in this case. We think it should be a little more complicated so that people are forced to think twice,” says Ida Larsson.
She has developed new templates for risk analyses. Photo by Klara Magnusson.

Risk analysis not always necessary
Not all tasks will require a risk analysis; which are to be included is still under assessment. Tasks are classified into a three-level colour scale, in which red requires immediate analysis, and green means that the task can be performed without assessment. In between, there is a yellow field for work yet to be categorized.
“We have not decided on the yellow area yet. Take an example: putting out a pilot ladder. It’s a job that is done often and involves some risks, but maybe we don’t need to make a new analysis each time.”
Risk assessments have been made in the past at Wallenius, but analysis templates have been less detailed and paper documentation has been kept in files. The work will now be included in the digital maintenance system onboard each vessel and will be controlled centrally.
“The idea is that you should go back and look at what you did last time and what the results were. Then you can build more into the next analysis and take the work one step further,” says Ida Larsson.
“Being able to see each others’ analyses is an incentive in itself,” she adds.
“The crews onboard are a little competitive and they like to be one up on their sister boats. If you see that someone else has made a good analysis, you want to do one that’s even better.”
There are texts linked to the analysis templates that can be used to guide the work. The company wants the analyses to be as complete as possible.
“If someone is going out to paint part of the ship, they want to see an analysis of the entire sequence of events from the time the person starts mixing the paint to when they do the job. It’s easy to become blind to the risks on your own ship, and that’s why it’s good to see what assessments others have made,” says Ida Larsson.
Experience and knowledge onboard
Her work is largely based on the Work Environment Act, but she has also had a lot of contact with the crews of several of the company’s vessels. “This has been one way of making the most of the experience and knowledge onboard,” says Ida Larsson.
“I’ve talked to maybe 15 people on different ships with various jobs, and they have given me a lot of good input. Contact with the ships has also helped to create acceptance of the system that may lead to people actually wanting to use it.”
To increase understanding of why risk assessment is important, information on the Work Environment Act and texts from the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s website will be added to the shipping company’s intranet. Ida Larsson has added explanatory texts to the paragraphs.
“Among other things, I have drawn up a glossary to describe concepts that may not be widely known. For example, I don’t think that many of our Filipino crew members, and perhaps not all Swedes either, know how AFA Safety Insurance works. We have also translated all the material into English so that everyone onboard can understand it.”
Templates and documents for risk analyses will be entered into the maintenance system and texts from the Work Environment Authority will be filed in the quality manual. “The fact that everybody onboard has access to the materials is a major advantage,” says the communications manager at Wallenius Lines, Cecilia Kolga.
“Many of the employees read our intranet when they are at sea – you have plenty of time when you are sailing over the Pacific. But the system also gives us in the office a better view of the situation, and it will serve as a bank of experience that we can compile facts and statistics from.
The project has not resulted in any additional costs, either,” according to Cecilia Kolga.
“Instead of purchasing new systems, we have used the ones we already have. In fact you could say that this is profitable, because we use our resources even better.”
Ida Larsson will have completed her work in mid-October.
Linda Sundgren

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