Health and safety often part of other courses

Over the years, health and safety issues have been given more emphasis in courses for marine professions, but it has not yet become a separate subject in marine officer programmes. At Wisbygymnasiet, the teachers interest students in health and safety issues by sharing their own experiences.

In recent years, these issues have been given more space in higher education institutions that train future seafarers, both at college/ university level and at upper secondary schools. Students are taught about risks and working methods, and the regulation on the organizational and social work environment (OSA), alongside the MeToo movement, have increased awareness of sexual harassment and abuse. At the beginning of November, representatives from the various seafarers’ programmes met to discuss health and safety issues. One of the participants was Bo Nordahl, a teacher at Wisby upper secondary school. 

“We talked about how our students are treated onboard ships and how we can prepare them for on the job training,” he says. “Hardly anybody discussed this in the past, but after #lättaankar there is a lot of talk about it. It is important that students speak out if there is any abuse instead of locking themselves in their cabins and feeling bad.” 

Wisbygymnasiet is an upper secondary school that has programmes for motormen and able seafarers. Bo Nordahl says that the students are often less interested in such issues when they start the programme, but the school has found ways of arousing their curiosity. 

“When they notice that their teachers have a lot of experience, they show more interest. I was a witness to a fatal accident on board and when I tell them about it, they listen. I think it is absolutely necessary to share your own experience to make students understand what health and safety is about and how important it is,” says Bo Nordahl. 

The same method is applied in the course on equality. “Students who make comments such as, “do we have to listen to this nonsense again”, fall silent when they hear how things really are,” says Bo Nordahl. 

“I have a friend who works as chief mate who comes here to talk with the students. When she tells them how she was treated while she was a trainee officer, the classroom goes completely quiet and they think it’s terrible, of course.”  

Johan Eliasson, the programme manager for the marine engineering programme at Chalmers University of Technology. He says that the training programmes provide students with the basics in health and safety so that they can deal with such issues when they start working in a junior position on board. 

“Yes, I think that they get enough information,” he says. “They study systematic health and safety with risk management, and risk assessments are made before any practical exercises involving risks are carried out. Health and safety comes up in several modules during the training programme.”

Students do not study any specific courses in health and safety, but such issues are part of other courses. 

“I believe in raising this sort of thing on a little but often basis. Having a one-off course only on health and safety would just have been ticking a box. The first time I meet the students, I talk about the classroom environment we strive for and make them aware of how they behave towards each other,” says Johan Eliasson. “I usually say that you don’t have to like everyone, but you have to treat everyone with respect,” says Johan Eliasson. 

The school has also chosen to integrate health and safety issues into other courses in the marine officer programme at Linnaeus University, Kalmar. 

“It is difficult to say exactly how many hours or days we spend on health and safety since it is embedded in different courses,” says Björn Pundars, head of department at the Marine Officer Academy in Kalmar. “But we start in the first term with a course in basic seamanship, which includes aspects of health and safety that students need before their first onboard training.”  

Björn Pundars explains that the basic issues, such as systematic health and safety work, safety routines and personal protective equipment, is the same for deck and machine personnel. The students later study more specific risks related to health and safety issues in each department. He thinks that the students get enough information on health and safety during their studies but adds that there is always more to learn. 

“It is a large area and no one can be an expert on everything when they have completed their studies here. The idea is to have sufficient knowledge which you can then build on in the future,” he says. 

San asked three questions about knowledge and education in health and safety.

1. Do marine officers currently learn enough about health and safety issues on the marine officer programme? 

2. How do you ensure that your officers have sufficient knowledge of health and safety issues? 

3. Is there anything you feel is missing in health and safety training for seafarers?

Anders Boman, safety manager, Älvtank

1. “I would probably say that they know a good deal in that area, and also put demands. The challenge is more often with older seafarers who have a rather outdated view of health and safety, and what issues are relevant.”

2. “We train the staff using computer-based training (CBT) and hold seminars on board every month with Shell Partners in safety as a basis. We have a conference with the crews once a year, where 75 per cent of the time is devoted to health and safety. We play the Safetalk board game to start – and keep up – a natural and relaxed dialogue among the crewmembers on matters related to safety and their work environment.”

3. “Not really, there are many tools and channels to use (see above). The main challenge is to get the crews motivated and interested.”

Björn Ådén, HR Manager, Tallink Silja 

1. “Health and safety issues are very important! I think that those who have finished their training today have much more knowledge and interest in these issues than previous generations. There is certainly still room for improvement in training programmes in terms of how to handle health and safety issues.”

2. “On a number of occasions we have created our own courses and training opportunities for our officers in health and safety. There is undoubtedly room for improvement here. We probably all need to encourage an even stronger interest in health and safety work. It is essential that all officers feel they should be involved and active in this area, preferably as a safety representative.”   

3. “More courses that are not made for and used by members of one particular trade union. Health and safety and a good work environment are necessary for everyone!”

Katarina Yng, Human Resources Manager, Destination Gotland 

1. “Yes, our officers have enough knowledge about health and safety on board, including noise, hazardous substances and the prevention of accidents.”

2. “We have a two-day health and safety course for managers twice a year, and all managers are continuously registered for the course.”

3. “We need to improve psychosocial aspects, but gender equality also affects health and safety.”

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