Both Swedish and international regulations require that risks in our work environment onboard must be investigated and assessed. It is not unusual that cargo owners also make demands for risk assessment.
There are many factors on a ship which may need risk assessment. We use chemicals which are dangerous, critical work is carried out in high risk environments and on top of this, any consequences of changes must be assessed in our changing world. And the whole bag of tricks must be examined, assessed, rectified and documented at the same time as we tick off all the ”must do” jobs to make the ship sail.
You sometimes get the feeling that the whole area of risk assessment has become a sort of autopiano, an end in itself. As long as we have carried out risk assessment, everything is fine. We know that there is a risk of falling overboard when working on deck, and that the risk is “seven” or “yellow” or “green”, depending on which method we use. If anybody asks, we can show them the risk in black and white. We are law-abiding. It may seem obvious, but in the midst of all this we must not lose sight of why we are making risk assessments and for whom. Satisfied customers are a must, and a happy inspector can make life easier, but those are not the real reasons for risk assessment being such a good work environment tool.
The aim of the Work Environment Act is to minimize the risks of ill health and accidents; the aim of the ISM code is to ensure safety at sea, to prevent people from being injured or killed, and to prevent damage to the environment and property. These are grand ambitions which are easy to sign as documents, but they require some special thought. We need to stop from time to time, look up from all our documents and ask ourselves: is it safer now? Have we done what we can to really minimize the risks? Did things turn out as we planned? Or are we just working to fill yet another file?
/doctoral student at Chalmers University of Technology
and co-opted member of the SAN board.