Viking Line is implementing a harmonization of environmental work on the company’s ships. Safety rounds will be introduced under the Swedish flag and there will be joint work environment courses and projects. The work is being led by the coordinator for the environment and worker protection, Susanna Airola.
Swedish ships are governed by the work environment act; Finnish ships by a worker protection law. It is not just about a difference in concepts. Regulations also have different contents, to some extent. For Viking Line, with ships registered in both countries, it means that there are two laws to follow depending on the flag. Susanna Airola says that Finland has no safety officers to represent the various departments onboard. Instead, they have a worker protection council. There must be one permanent member and two deputies on each vessel, designated to represent the crew and cooperate with the shipping company in work environment issues. Another difference between the countries is that Finnish law does not require safety rounds, which have been applied on Swedish ships for many years.
But now the company wants to create a uniform work environment policy for their ships. Irrespective of the flag, ships should be guided by the same principles and have similar organizations.
“We want all our ships to have the same quality and we want to be able to send out the same directive to all our ships. Our ambition is to study what works well under the different regulations and then introduce them on all the ships,” says Susanna Airola.
A concrete example is the safety rounds now being introduced on Finnish-flagged ships.
“There is nothing in Finnish law that requires safety rounds. But we think it is a very good practice and so we are introducing it on all the ships,” says Susanna Airola.
Lives: Both in Åbo and Vårdö/Åland
Job: Environment and worker protection coordinator at Viking Lines Marine Operations.
Background: Sea Captain’s degree after many years at sea with Viking Line and Eckerö line, among others. Bachelor’s degree in Humanities at Åbo Academy.
Work environment tip: Take advantage of the skills and creativity among the crew on the ships. Many of our large work environment projects have been planned in working groups made up of staff from onshore and crews from various ships and with different jobs. This has proved to be a very successful concept, since at the planning stage you can take advantage of different skills and get viewpoints from people with different jobs and experiences.
Joint risk assessments
Another step towards more uniform work environment management is a common system for risk assessments that has been created. During the whole of last year there was one support person, who normally serves as a nurse onboard, who worked with risk assessments on all the ships. “It was a large but necessary measure,” says Susanna Airola.
“The old risk assessments were made by every department on every ship, with no comparisons with the rest of the fleet. The differences in assessments became too large and there were often too many personal opinions.”
As a basis for the new risk assessments, a system developed by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has been used.
Another part of the coordination of environmental work is to have the crews go on joint courses.
“We need to give them tools to work with and I believe that they can get these through the courses. It is the crew onboard that has the relevant knowledge and carries out the practical environ-mental work. We at the shipping office have more of a support function.”
Work safety licence
During the year, officers will also have to take the so-called work safety licence. Finnish industry has developed a one-day training course on creating a safe work environment for temporary staff and new recruits. Viking Line is going to send their ships’ officers on the course.
“We have a lot of people from subcontractors who come onboard and work, and having crewmembers from outside our company requires special safety measures. The course also deals with the introduction of new recruits and how important it is that they learn to work safely,” says Susanna Airola.
On Viking line ships, the captain is responsible for the work environment or work safety onboard. There are three people who share each job, and one of the three has a greater responsibility for the work environment than the others. New for this year is to bring together all the captains to meetings with the shipping company, where the new work environment management policy will be put together. The first meeting is planned in March.
“We will look back on what we’ve done, go through the statistics, see how it looks today, and then discuss which areas need to be developed and how it will be done. Perhaps there will be joint training or new routines, but it remains to be seen what comes up at the meetings.”