Knowledge eases collaboration

Health and safety management on board is led by officers in collaboration with safety representatives. According to Pelle Andersson, though, who is an ombudsman for Seko Seafarers, the parties involved do not always have the same level of expertise and this can sometimes make cooperation difficult.

Newly elected safety representatives start with a basic course in the marine work environment. The course is three days long and includes basic knowledge in health and safety legislation and systematic health and safety management, but also covers certain health risks caused by noise, vibrations and poor air quality. Seko Seafarers are behind the course. 

“After completing this course, we want the safety representatives to work in shipping for a few years and test what they have learned in practice – and preferably have time to come across a few problems. Then it’s time for the second course,” says Pelle Andersson. 

Marine work environment 2 is a four-day course and includes the ILO Labor Convention, load ergonomics, thermosetting plastics and asbestos, among other topics. Exactly what is taken up in the course varies over time with work environment changes on ships. 

“We had deleted asbestos from the course because problems with it had decreased over several years, but we have had to reintroduce it. A number of old ships, often in archipelago traffic, have problems with asbestos and many younger safety representatives are not aware of the risks,” says Pelle Andersson. 

For chief safety representatives, there are also in-depth courses in health and safety with the option of more in-depth work in specific areas. Safety representatives play a central role in health and safety on board, but in order to make changes the officers need to be involved. For good cooperation between the two groups, officers also need to be familiar with health and safety issues, but this is not always the case, according to Pelle Andersson. 

“It is difficult if officers feel insecure when the person on the other side of the table is already an expert on what they are saying, and this can lead to unnecessary conflicts. People with insufficient knowledge often try to minimise problems instead of solving them. It is important that both sides respect the other’s role, and this applies to safety representatives as well as officers.” 

Seko Seafarers health and safety courses are open to officers if there are enough places, and Pelle Andersson believes that discussions benefit from officers being on the courses. 

“We would like to have more officers on the courses, but usually there are only two or three of them. At the same time, we have a limited number of places and we would not be able to take in as many officers as we would like to.” 

However, he thinks that he sees a positive development, with more shipping companies investing in further health and safety training for their officers. 

“I know that some shipping companies have started to use external training companies such as Prevent and have regular health and safety courses. But sometimes the shipowners themselves need bit more information in this area. After all, they are ultimately responsible for health and safety on board.” 

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