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“We are each other’s work environment” was the message that ran through the whole SAN Conference. There were many practical tips during the day about how to improve the social work environment on board and how to achieve major changes with simple means.

Two of the participants who gave clear advice on the social work environment were this year’s winners of the SAN prize, chief safety officer Pia Westerholm and safety officer Jeanette Ganesjö, both from Silja Symphony. They described their award winning project Together we make a difference, in which they organise workshops with their crew members to find simple methods of improving the social work environment on board.

New online tools

“We safety officers don’t have magic wands, but if everyone does a little we can achieve miracles together,” says Jeanette Ganesjö.

Ann Appelberg from Prevent was another speaker who presented concrete support for work environment measures. She demonstrated a new online tool aimed at managers who want to work with health promotion. She started off her talk by showing a film about health-promotion leadership.

“To work with health promotion, a manager must be able to lead the work well, have clear objectives and tasks and a good balance between tasks and resources,” she said.

Prevent’s tool is partly based on research by Lotta Dellve, who also took part in the SAN Conference. Lotta Dellve, professor of work science at the University of Gothenburg, stated that first line managers in particular often have poor support and in many cases are overloaded with work. This makes it difficult to be a good leader.

“Compared with many other countries in Europe we have a high workload and a fast pace at our workplaces. Open-ended tasks and lack of recovery are the biggest problems in Sweden at the moment,” she explained.

Lotta Dellve believes it is important for leaders to create an individual relationship with each of their employees; a social contract in which a sense of trust is built between them and their employees.

“This has become increasingly important in recent years, particularly with the younger generation,” she said.


Margareta Jensen Dickson from Stena Line talked about sustainable shipping. She described sustainability work at Stena, which covers the work environment as well as staff, and said that the issues of equality and work environment have become increasingly important priorities in the shipping company in the last few years.

“Our target is to have 30% women in leading positions by 2022,” she said. “The biggest challenge is to change the mind-set of our managers, but that is on the go. One example is our terminal in Poland, which now has its first ever female port manager.”

Per Arnevall from Pga Utveckling talked about how our behaviour affects those around us. Emotions, he said, are extremely infectious and just as a smile is often met by another smile, sour looks can create irritation and a bad atmosphere. Linus Edberg, master of Sirius Shipping’s tanker M/T Saturnus, talked about leadership from an onboard perspective. He described how his own style of leadership has developed over the years as he learned from the officers he sailed with. Another master at the conference was Helle Andsbjerg, “Captain Helle”, from Denmark. She also talked about how her leadership qualities were formed during her years at sea.

Create a strong culture

“As a captain, the most important thing is to create environments where the crew can feel safe and secure,” she said. “On some ships that I have worked aboard, I was the only Dane in the crew. My goal as a captain has always been to create a strong culture which everybody agrees on.”

To get the crew on your side, she said, you must be prepared to listen – to have a dialogue rather than a monologue – and remind yourself and others of the reasons for doing what you do.

“It is important to know the purpose of your job and to understand that you are part of a bigger team. Being a boss is not about having the right to decide over others, it is an obligation to give people service.”

Shared training

The day ended with a panel discussion under the leadership of Cecilia Österman, work environment researcher at Linnaeus University. As well as several of the earlier speakers, Johan Hartler from Chalmers University of Technology and Jeanette Wetterström, HR consultant, took part in the panel discussion. One issue that came up for discussion was managers and safety officers attending the same health and safety courses to facilitate work environment management on board. The day ended with the SAN chairman, Lars Andersson, thanking SAN’s former secretary, Eva Ohlsson, for arranging no less than 14 SAN conferences. She will now move on to other duties. There were around a hundred visitors at the conference, which was held in the Clarion Hotel, Gothenburg.

Linda Sundgren, text and photo

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