Peder Eriksson is a mechanic who has been interested in the work environment on board for many years. This year he was given a prize by the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation for two innovations, both related to making work on board safer.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation postponed its annual awards ceremony, which was to be held in Stockholm in May. The awards were handed out as usual, though, and a summary of all the entries can be read on the Foundation’s website. One of the people rewarded for their innovative thinking is Peder Eriksson, a mechanic on Silja Galaxy, who sent in two entries. One is a hanging platform for working above the main engine and the second is an adjustable platform that can be used to work in stairways.
“I had the idea of the hanging platform when one of the electrical engineers told us that they sit on the beam in the ceiling and slide forwards when they need to replace fluorescent lamps or batteries in the smoke detectors,” he says. “I realised how dangerous it sounded, even if they did use a strap or harness.”
The hanging platform has a footplate and back protection, but for increased safety it should be used together with a fall-protection harness. It is hooked directly onto the cross beam, which provides a good working height.
“Most of the materials were on board already and the only thing I needed to order was a few square metres of sheet steel for the platform itself,” says Peder.
Asked for help
The second platform, made to work in stairwells, was designed by Peder after an incident had taken place. A colleague had been standing on a ladder in the stairwell to do a job on the ceiling when the ladder gave way and he fell.
“He was bruised, of course, and was probably quite shocked, even though his injuries were not too serious. Afterwards he came to me and asked if I could come up with something to make work in stairwells safer.”
The solution was a folding adjustable platform that is easy to move from place to place. The height of the platform can be adjusted to the distance between steps.
Safety and the work environment is something that Peder Eriksson has always been interested in during his 46 years at sea. When he looks back, he can see that there are many aspects of safety on board that have actually got worse. In the past, he says, it was easier to access things in the engine room and things were better quality than nowadays.
“Ships built in Sweden in the 1970s were really good, with spacious engine rooms. Access was easy and there was plenty of lifting equipment. You could tell that the people designing and building the ships had thought about how the crew could do a good job. It’s all about money these days and engine rooms are made smaller to maximise cargo space, at least on the ships I’ve worked on in the last few years. I have no idea what it’s like working on modern cargo ships, though.”
Peder Eriksson started working in the early 1970s on Sunnanvik, as ship owned by Cementa, when he was 17. After that he worked on a number of ships with Nordström and Thulin, Gotlandsbolaget, Wallenius, Stena and Silja. Going to sea happened more or less by chance, he explains.
“I really wanted to study to become a workshop mechanic ashore, but my grades were not good enough so instead I went to the Seafarer’s Academy in Stockholm which was a one-year course at the time. Ever since then I’ve been working at sea apart from a few short jobs ashore.”
When we spoke, he had just come home after two weeks of work and had almost a month’s leave at his home on Öland before going back to sea again.
“I work two weeks on and two weeks off, then two weeks on and four weeks off. It’s a good schedule, but the working days on board are long and when you come home it takes several days to recover and catch up with your sleep.”
The next time Peder Eriksson is on board he is going to replace the steps on a ladder to prevent falling accidents.
“Aluminium is very slippery and if you’re not very careful your foot slides, you fall and hurt yourself. The grilles arrived just before I went home. We’ll have to see if anyone has started putting them in place before I get back.”
Work environment tip: Always be cautious and think about where you put your hands and feet. Try not to rush, though it can be difficult of course.