The management of the Rosella has got to grips with the work environment onboard by holding frequent safety committee meetings and having designated safety officers. Viking Line’s full-time chief safety officer, Bent Björn-Nielsen, supports all of this.
Soon after 12 o’clock Rosella leaves the quayside in Kapellskär in Norrtälje. The ship is fully booked and the crew have a couple of hectic hours ahead before they arrive in Mariehamn. But despite the stress that is often present, Bent Björn-Nielsen is very satisfied with the work environment activities that are carried out. One of the measures he especially appreciates is that the ship’s second mate has been given special responsibility for the work environment.
– It is more straightforward this way and you know exactly who to turn to with different questions. I personally wish that all ships had this system, he says.
The three mates who share safety duties have divided the tasks between themselves and each has overall responsibility for a certain area. Johan Backman, who is on service today, is in charge of safety.
– We have introduced this division of work so that no duties are left out, and so that others know who they can turn to with certain issues. If you have the main responsibility for an area you get to know it well, even though we also have shared responsibility for the whole working environment, he says.
Johan makes sure that all the lifebuoys and lifeboats are kept in good condition, and he leads exercises. He also organises the systematic work environment activities.
– We have produced a system for safety rounds and drawn up checklists. This job suits me well, I like it when things are organised and shipshape, he says.
Last summer Viking Line created a post for a full-time chief safety officer who will help to coordinate work environment activities and operate as support for the crew. Bent Björn-Nielsen is responsible for Rosella, Cinderella and Xprs. He is often onboard to meet the personnel and Rosella describes him as exemplary.
– They are damned good here, he says. They often have their own ideas and they have the right attitude towards the work environment and safety.
One of the strongest driving forces on the Rosella is the captain, Kenneth Eriksson. He says that work environment is an issue that lies close to his heart, and his ambition is that it will become a natural part of the daily routines onboard.
– The work environment is not something to do when everything else is finished – it is what we should be starting with. A good work environment is the basis for making everything else work, he says.
Many of the work environment activities on the Rosella are about establishing procedures that function well and obtaining a structure which clearly indicates what must be done and when. The number of safety committee meetings has been doubled and they are now held every month. Any accidents that have affected the personnel are taken up at the meetings as well as any risks which have been noted in Viking Lines’ internal deviation reporting system. In conjunction with every meeting a safety round is carried out. Kenneth says that they have made a lot of progress in terms of creating procedures, but that there are many things which still need improving.
– Above all we need to get better at following up our work. We do our safety rounds and we find out what problems there are, but we must get better at ensuring what we decide actually gets done.
New risk assessments
A large ongoing project here on the Rosella, like on the other two ships which Bent works with, is risk assessment. When Bent started his post last year he went through the risk assessments which had been carried out. He noticed that there were a number of conclusions in them which did not seem realistic.
– In the machine room they had not found a single risk, while working on the cash till was assessed as level 4 on a five-grade scale. It was obviously wrong, he says.
Instead of starting to correct and re-write existing documents, it was decided that completely new risk assessments would be carried out on all ships. This time the work is more closely controlled, the personnel onboard have been given clear instructions on how the assessments are to be made, what they are looking for and how the risks are to be coded. A newly created working group with representatives from the ships will later go through everything to quality assure the assessments.
– If anything appears a little strange we will contact the department and ask them how they were thinking. This work should be completed by the new year, but it has also been decided that new risk assessments will be carried out prior to any rebuilding or new construction, says Bent.
He often comes onboard to meet the crew. It is then he notices how people feel and finds out if there is anything wrong.
– I have devoted a lot of time to conflict management, he explains. Things were not going well in one department and people were feeling bad, but nobody understood why. It turned out that the managers were having problems co-operating, but that is all solved now.
Most people on the Rosella seem to enjoy their work. The fact that the ship is relatively small means that most of the crew know each other and the team spirit compensates in many cases for what can often be tough work. Things are very hectic in the galley, people are rushing around and you can hear the crashing from the washing up all around you. Johanna Johansson rolls in a trolley with empty small dishes from the buffet.
Save your body
– It is quite hard going working in the galley, but I do think about how I carry and lift things. When I started here people told me to be careful with my back and showed me how to do the work, and I listened to their advice, she says.
In the buffet her colleague, Jelena Rautjärvi, is clearing off the tables. After 15 years in the profession she has learned how to take care of her body.
– I don’t carry more than I can manage, she says. Many others take too much, especially when things get stressed, but I never carry more than 12 plates at a time. That is quite heavy enough with leftovers and cutlery on top.
It is things like this which Bent and the ship management are striving for: that the personnel look after their own and their colleagues’ health and think about how the work affects them. The right conditions and equipment are also needed for the crew to be able to do their work safely.
Marika Holmberg works at the cash till in the tax-free shop. She is sitting on a basic office chair, without an adjustable cash till, and she thinks it is difficult to find a good working position.
– In terms of ergonomics it is not particularly good. The chair is difficult to angle and my shoulders and back are aching when I finish my shift. I hope that we will soon be given new things, she says.
Bent agrees that work at the cash tills is a problem. Repetitive movements wear parts of the body and without adjustable equipment it is almost impossible to find a healthy working position.
– They bought new cash tills for the Cinderella recently and I can guarantee that they will give the personnel problems in their shoulders and joints in the future. They chose to buy the same sort as on the other ships are as they were given a good price, but if they had looked at what they are like to work with they would probably have chosen a different model. People come in all shapes and sizes, he says.
Adapted ear protection
Another major project on the Rosella is to find ear protection that is adapted to each department. Personnel in the bar and nightclub have moulded models, while other variants are being tested for deckhands. In the machine room people say they are good at using the safety equipment that is provided. Second ship’s engineer Niklas Karlsson has worked for about a week at his current post.
– I always wear ear protectors, gloves and glasses. They are definitely necessary. Once, a drill bit broke off and flew up towards my eyes, and if I had not been wearing safety glasses I could have been badly hurt, he says.
Another area in which both Bent and the management of the Rosella are working on is to get more of the personnel involved in work environment activities onboard. As is so often the case, this is led by a small group of enthusiasts, but to achieve real results we need to get more people involved, he says. On the initiative of captain Eriksson, a list has been made of those interested in the work environment in each department to find people who are willing to work more with these issues. Minutes from safety committee meetings are no longer just put up on noticeboards, they are also made available in a plastic folder in the rest room for people to take with them to their cabins.
– This is a simple but damned good idea, says Bent, holding up the folder with the minutes in. You have to keep on informing people again and again, and in the end maybe they will wake up and become interested.