At Stena Nautica, systematic work environment management (SAM) is in full swing. A large number of risk assessments have been made and several deficiencies have already been made good.
– There are no problems at all with this work as soon as you get started, says Captain Jan Hellroth.
Rain-laden skies lie over the harbour in Grenå. Foaming waves roll over the long, desolate strip of beach a little further away and there are only a few passengers. Twenty or so of the ferry’s chiefs and officers have been on a course for systematic work environment management on the passage from Varberg and are now taking a break for arrival and lunch. For several members of the crew, the course is mostly repetition. They have been working actively with SAM since last autumn and have started to understand the principles and become familiar with the rules and regulations.
Lennart Andersson, bosun and principle safety officer, is one of the group with sound knowledge of the Work Environment Act. He is in charge of SAM among the deck personnel and they have carried out between one and two risk assessments per week.
– We discuss the risks involved in a task and what can be done to reduce them. We then write down our conclusions. We started with the most common tasks: the things we do daily or several times a week.
Risks are assessed in accordance with a number and colour-coding system that a technical manager at the shipping company has developed. Green requires no action to be taken; yellow means action at a later stage; everything in the red column must be rectified immediately. All relevant viewpoints and conclusions are documented.
– The colour coding makes the results clear and is a rather good system to work with. Serious risks can sometimes be put right fairly easily.
A few hours’ work
Lennart Andersson gets up from the dark grey leather sofa by the starboard wing of the bridge and walks to the valves. He points down to the forecastle where two seamen are involved in mooring work.
– Can you see that black steel hoop above the capstan? It prevents the hawser from jumping off and landing in the wrong position. That is one thing that we noticed during a risk assessment and then rectified. It did not take more than a few hours to weld that together.
– We are going to construct a partition wall by the capstan over there to protect people from injury if a hawser should snap, he continues. A hawser could easily sever a person’s legs if they are standing in the way.
There are many reasons for having systematic work environment management onboard. Here are some that the Swedish Work Environment Authority emphasises:
• It results in risks at work being detected and remedied in time.
• It prevents employees being affected by accidents, illness, stress or other negative consequences of work.
• It ensures good conditions at work, which may reduce absence levels.
• It improves well-being and engagement in work.
• It reduces disruptions and drops in quality.
• It results in better order in the whole company and smoothes operations.
• It contributes to good finances in the company.
• It gives a good impression and the company can more easily retain and recruit personnel.
The fact that an area has been assessed for risks and documented does not necessarily mean that the work is over. Sometimes new information turns up which involves changes and updating. Lennart Andersson saw an example of that as recently at the morning meeting of the safety committee. They were discussing the problem of night shift personnel sometimes being disturbed when the deck crew start work with needle scalers in the morning.
– I had not considered that anybody might be woken up when we were removing rust, but we must add it to the risk assessment. The most difficult thing in risk assessments is including all possible aspects and perspectives of an issue, he says.
Better attitude after change in laws
Lennart Andersson has worked at Stena Line for 20 years and has been involved with work environment issues for a long time. He notices a great difference after the Work Environment Act came into force for ships in 2003.
– Now that shipping companies are forced to follow laws and regulations, things have become a lot better and work environment issues are getting a better hearing now, in a completely different way. You notice there is a greater interest in work environment onboard ships.
The machine section has also made great headway in risk assessments. Ronny Larsson is the technical officer. He moves to the computer in the control room and opens risk assessment documents. He counts up to a total of 49 areas rectified.
– When we started we had between five and six areas per week to assess for risks, but now things have calmed down a little. In the machine room there is an almost infinite number of risks, and it is not reasonable for us to assess absolutely everything, he says.
Ronny Larsson explains that in the machine section they started by documenting the most obvious risks. Discussions showed that most of the crew were already well aware of the dangers in their work, but he believes that documentation plays an important role anyhow.
– There is not much new here for the older crewmembers, but this information will be very useful for new employees, he says.
During the return crossing the SAM course continues and it draws to a close two hours before their arrival at Varberg. Many of the participants are then in a rush to complete their normal duties.
Jan-Erik Erixon is sitting in front of the computer in his office on the passenger deck. He started his work as assistant service manager in the shop, restaurant and hotel department just over six months ago and so far has not managed to systematise the work environment activities.
– I have never worked with this before – it is completely new to me. I have looked over the shoulders of those working in operations but I have not really got started. The course today was excellent though, and I understand much better what I am supposed to do now.
He says that the biggest obstacle for him has been lack of time. As a new employee, other things have come first.
– There are only 24 hours in each day and it is difficult to find enough time for everything. But now I am going to give priority to this.
Committed safety officer
Captain Jan Hellroth sits down with a cup of coffee in the officers’ mess after lunch. He is satisfied with the crew’s work and thinks that there is more structure in the work environment area since SAM was introduced.
– We have always discussed risks but we have never written them down before, he explains.
Stena Line is among the shipping companies that have made greatest progress with the introduction of SAM on their ships and they are investing a lot in improving conditions onboard. At Nautica, they did not wait for guidelines from the shore-based administration but set about the work independently.
– The Swedish Maritime Administration said that we could start work ourselves. We went on a one-day course and then we started, and things went surprisingly smoothly. The fact that the work has gone so well is to a large extent due to our safety officer being so committed. We give priority to safety onboard here, and the work environment is very much about safety, says Jan Hellroth.