Painful backs and psychological problems are common reasons for service personnel on ferries taking sick leave. Researchers at the Kalmar Maritime Academy will now try to find out what lies behind this ill health and present their solutions for reducing absence due to sickness.
Service personnel have the highest sick leave figures on passenger ships. Statistics show that painful backs and psychological problems are common, but what causes these issues is relatively unknown. A research project has now been started to take a closer look at these health problems. The study is a collaboration between the Maritime University/Linnéus University and the Social Insurance Agency’s maritime office in Gothenburg.
”Our overall goal is to develop strategies and action plans to reduce ill health,” says researcher and marine engineer Cecilia Österman, who is in charge of the project. ”We are primarily doing this in the seafarers’ interest, but it is also good for business. Sick leave costs money, and there are also links between job satisfaction and customer satisfaction,” she says.
A survey from 2010 shows that service personnel differ from the other personnel groups on board. They identify themselves less as seafarers and feel more vulnerable to stress and ailments than their colleagues on the deck and engine room crews. Within the newly started research project, the same questionnaire will be sent out again to examine whether there has been any change since the last measurement was made.
”We will also conduct detailed interviews with personnel on board and make use of participant observation. It is easy to get bogged down in negative aspects when studying the work environment, but we must try to avoid this and look for good examples too,” says Cecilia Österman.
She adds that already during the pilot studies prior to the research project, she came across several situations where the crewmembers solved work environment problems themselves.
”Luxury cabins had recently been refurbished on a ship. Before the work was done, mock-ups were made simple (scale models) and when the staff tried to clean the rooms it turned out that the beds were too wide and it was not possible to access the floor properly around the beds. It was decided to buy narrower beds.”
”Another example is a ship where they changed the latte glasses. The old ones weighed too much, which resulted in heavy lifts when the racks were being put in the dishwasher. Instead they bought lighter glasses, which were also cheaper. You can often do a lot with relatively simple measures.”
The research project goes under the name of Service personnel work environment on Swedish controlled passenger ships, and is financed by the Swedish Mercantile Marine Foundation. The study will present its final report in about two years.