The hard floors in the galley have been replaced by softer types, roller shelves are being tried out in the stores, and the café has been equipped with more spacious work areas. Ergonomics are in focus on the passenger ferry M/S Eckerö.
The sparkling spring sun is already high when Eckerö glides out from Grisslehamn in northern Roslagen and sets course for Åland. More than 600 passengers have checked in, and although that is only one third of the ship’s total capacity there are plenty of people in the shops, restaurants and passageways. For the crew this means several hours of walking and standing, which make many of them tired physically. One of them is the chef, Ralf Reinlund, who is in the galley cutting open bell peppers.
“Speaking for myself, it gets to my lower back,” he says and puts one of his hands on the lumbar region. “I have massage regularly and I use gel inserts in my shoes. It relieves some of the pain, but not completely.”
He still thinks things have improved since the old hard floor was replaced with a softer type during the last period in dock in January.
“When this was new it was pure heaven to walk on – it was like a treadmill,” he says and bends a little at the knees. “It’s aged a little and become a bit harder, but compared to the old floor it is far more comfortable.”
In the café next door, not only was a new floor put in while the ship was in dock, but it was given a completely new layout. Madelen Norberg is the manager who took the initiative to make the change.
Together with a colleague, she also made the design.
“The great advantage is that we now have proper work surfaces,” she says, pointing toward the two units in the middle of the room.
Madelen had tried to have the section rebuilt earlier, but was refused on that occasion. This time the shipping company said yes directly. Possibly because they were going to remove the decor to replace the floor and some of the fittings, she guesses.
“It turned out exactly the way we wanted and we’re all really satisfied. “We’ve also replaced the heavy latte glasses with these,” says Madelen and passes over a neat little glass. “It more than halved the weight on the glass trays, from thirteen to six kilograms.”
Lifting with your legs
The storeroom is probably the department with most heavy lifting on the ship. The room is at one end of the duty-free shop and has plenty of box pallets and full rows of shelves. There is not much space between the shelves and it is not possible to access all the places with trolleys or trucks. Rolling shelves have been installed for a trial period to make it easier to pull out the heavy boxes. Risto Teerikoski works in the duty-free shop, but often goes to the storeroom to fetch items.
“These shelves are really great,” he says, demonstrating how he can pulls out a box that is at the top on a deep shelf with a hooked rod.
He straightens his back and turns around. There are even more boxes.
“These are the worst,” he says, pointing with his foot to a box of liqueur bottles on the floor. “When you lift them up, you must remember to lift using your legs and not your back”.
Smooth floors in the engine room
In the perfume department, heavy lifting is not the biggest ergonomic problem;
instead it is the lighting. Susanna Raitio, shop manager, explains when she has a gap between two customers.
“The yellow lights mean it is rather dark in here and colours are not natural – you become quite tired after a while. We need more daylight colour lamps such as those we have over here,” she says and shows the long wall, freshly equipped with new shelves and lighting. “We have taken the issue up with the ship’s management, but apparently it is too expensive to replace them all.”
Down in the engine room, on the other hand, it is unexpectedly bright and airy. Johan Bäckström is second engineer on board. He says that it is relatively easy to access things and carry out maintenance down here.
“This ship is really well thought out and planned for her age. Many new ships are much worse.”
We walk between the different sections on smooth floors without any high thresholds.
“This allows us to pull trolleys through the whole engine room and all the way into the workshop,” says Johan in a loud voice, so he can be heard through the ear defenders. “The temperature is pretty good too because we run on marine diesel and not heavy oil, which must be heated.”
In the workshop, which can become very hot on warm summer days, air conditioning has been installed.
”The temperature is down to around 30 degrees in the summer now,” says the repairman, Lasse Larsson, with a wry smile. “But down here you can stand and sweat – it doesn’t bother anyone. The only thing I think is difficult is the constant background noise and vibrations, which can become difficult to take.”
Even though people on board have different ergonomic challenges depending on which department they work in, they have one thing in common: they enjoy the work very much. Comments like, ”We care about each other”, ”Here we help each other out” and ”Great atmosphere” are heard in all the departments, including the engine room.
“This is my seventh ship and by far the best I have been on,” says Johan. “I think it affects how you feel physically too. If you like your work, perhaps you don’t notice discomfort as much.”
Mooring from land
After a two-hour boat journey we moor in Berghamnen on Eckerö. Able seamen Jörgen Hellquist and his colleagues are standing on the stern, some with a cup of coffee, while the mooring ropes are untouched on the deck.
“They make the ship fast from the port, which saves a lot of back-ache for us,” says Jörgen and points down at the quay. “It is only after the last evening passage that we moor the ship ourselves. We’ve now got half an hour to empty the ship, load it again and stock up before it’s time to start the return journey.”