“I really want to be an expert in health and safety”

Two areas that particularly interest the Swedish Transport Agency’s new health and safety official are how work environment issues affect the individual and regulatory work. After a few months of introduction and smaller cases, Yesim Atak hopes to make her first visit to a ship in the near future.

Yesim Atak knew that she wanted to work with people and health, and started studying to be a nurse after high school. A year or so later, she realized that it was not the right choice. Instead, she became interested in a Public Health programme and after three years of university studies, she graduated this spring as a public health scientist. 

“Public health is a broad programme,” she explains as we talk on the phone one morning in mid-November. “The focus is on people’s health in their working life, but we also study the effects of the ambient environment, gender and living conditions. We study health and safety at all levels, from societal to organizational to groups and individuals.” 

When Yesim Atak saw an advertisement for a health and safety officer at the Swedish Transport Agency, she was interested. She thought the work sounded interesting and after some reflection, she decided to send in an application. 

“When I saw that the job was in the shipping department, my first thought was that I know nothing about shipping. But I do know a lot about health and safety, and there is much that applies to any area of industry.” 

At the time of writing, Yesim Atak has been working at the Transport Agency for almost exactly three months. Up until now, she has largely devoted her time to reading up on health and safety regulations in shipping, but she has recently  started to take on individual cases. 

“There have been questions about the contents of a ship’s pharmacy and what should be included. I have also been informed about some accidents that have occurred. People have probably started to realize that I work here,” she says. 

As a health and safety official, Yesim Atak will work primarily with regulations development, permits and supervisory work. She says she has a wide interest in health and safety issues, but she is particularly interested in individual aspects. Yesim Atak likes to focus on how people are affected by their environment and by changes to it. 

“The workplace is your second home, so it is important that people feel as good as possible at work – both for themselves and their work performance. Another interesting question is how individuals act to manage work environments that are not so good. From what I have understood so far, ships often have difficult work environments and that there are quite a few improvements that can be made.” 

One area for improvement she mentions is the high workload. 

“It is interesting to see what you can do to reduce stress, but also how people choose to deal with it. I think there is a lot we can do for the social work environment,” she says. 

Yesim Atak was born and raised in Falun, studied at Mälardalen University and then joined the Transport Agency in Norrköping. To start with her first job at a government agency in a completely new industry is exciting, but also a challenge. 

“Many people who work here have a lot of experience and have worked in shipping for a long time. I don’t have that background, but I will learn the ropes. I have not yet had time to visit any ships but I hope to do that soon. Another health and safety official is going to be recruited at the Transport Agency and it will be fun to have someone to work alongside.” 

She is currently looking forward to immersing herself in her new area of ​​work so that she can help in the development of health and safety in shipping. 

“In my role as an official, I really want to become an expert in health and safety and get involved in developing this area. In the long run, I would probably enjoy working more with regulations and get really good at that.”

Yesim Atak on her picture of health and safety in shipping

“There has been a lot to read in the first few months on all the rules and regulations that apply to shipping. It is very interesting and my goal is to become an expert in this field. My impression so far is that there is quite a lot that needs improving, particularly in the social work environment at sea. Your workplace is your second home, so it is important that people feel as good as possible at work.”

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