Every month the safety representative group has a check-up meeting to decide on what issues should be sent to the ship’s management. The crew has created its own routines for systematic work environment management on board M/S Eckerö.
“In the beginning I was pretty sceptical about the safety representative group. It felt like we would lose control over the situation. But it worked out well, so we’ve continued,” says the master, Christer Edström.
The initiative for the group was taken by the able seaman and chief safety representative, Jörgen Hellquist. He didn’t think that a safety committee was enough for detecting and driving the health and safety issues that needed to be solved.
“The safety representatives are my eyes and ears in the different departments,” says Jörgen. “They can tell me directly when something is not working well, and we have managed to push through several changes. But it is not a question of ”us against the employer” – we all work together.”
Christer agrees. “I think it may be easier for the crew to go to the health and safety representatives’ group with their proposals rather than directly to me. The groups then pick out the tasks that are realistic for development before we look at them more closely together.”
The major change in work environment took place in 2009 when M/S Eckerö changed to the Swedish flag.
“At that time, there was virtually no work environment management under the Finnish flag, so it was a big change for us”, says Christer. “Before that there was one person who decided everything, but we officers have had to leave behind a lot in that area and now there are many more people involved in the work environment.”
According to Jörgen, he and the ship’s management often agree on what needs to be done and what is reasonable to introduce. But regardless of what is decided, both he and Christer agree that it is very important to explain and motivate decisions for the crew.
“If we are not able to make a change, it is very important to talk about the reasons why not”, says Christer. “Otherwise people just get angry because nothing happens, and we risk spoiling the good atmosphere we have on board.”