The concept of safety culture was explained in detail at the autumn SAN conference. The audience also learned how we as people react when we are subjected to stress in connection with accidents.
There were many ”aha’s”, ”oh’s” and ”right’s” heard among the hundred or so people that had gathered at Läppstiftet in Göteborg to learn more about the work environment at sea. The list of speakers, including some people seldom heard in the context of shipping, gave both breadth and depth to the subjects covered during the day. Safety culture was the overall theme of the conference.
The first speaker of the day, Urban Lyxzén Bervelius from Primus Pilus, explained that safety culture in reality is not so much about technical measures for protection, safety management systems, well-formulated policies or managers that constantly point out how important it is to follow all the regulations. Instead he focused on the shared attitudes and unwritten rules of work teams, which in turn are based on fundamental human behaviour.
Culture is created by group pressure
– It is when we discuss people in work teams and their attitudes to how things are carried out that we get closer to safety culture. It is created by group pressure and the desire to participate and fit in with the others. When nobody protests when one of their colleagues does something obviously dangerous or inappropriate, there is a poor safety culture prevailing at the work place, he says.
In companies where managers wish to influence safety culture, control should not take place from the top down. He believes that better results are achieved if personnel are asked how they would like things to be done.
– Let the flow go from bottom up. You will notice that it works much better than if you, as managers, try to force a lot of rules on your employees, says Urban Lyxzén Bervelius.
Tryggve Ahlman from the Swedish Shipowners’ Association gave a brief presentation of how major shipping disasters have driven the development of regulations forwards and stated that all players in trade and industry have responsibility for safety culture in shipping.
Simple solutions increase safety
Peter Jodin from Wallenius Marin explained how they have developed safety work with the help of personnel onboard. He showed how rather simple solutions can improve the work environment and raise safety levels. One example is a high rail that has been installed on all ships and which is supported by a bulkhead where it joins the weather deck. It can be used in the event of a violent heel.
A ribbed enclosure with handrails on both sides has been constructed to make movement on deck easier in severe conditions and cradles to make the launching of life rafts easier are now standard on the company’s ships.
The researcher and marine engineer Monica Lundh was at the conference to talk about her dissertation ”Machine rooms, ergonomics and safety” which will soon be published. She stated that there are many possible improvements in control rooms and machine rooms.
The chief physician Ralph Nilsson and his colleague Karl Forsell gave a short presentation about the website for maritime medicine which will be launched in the spring with financial aid from SAN.
Managers can create a safety climate
One much appreciated lecturer was Marianne Törner from the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg. She spoke in a very engaged tone about how a better safety climate at workplaces leads to fewer accidents and that managers play an important role in creating a good climate of safety.
– What a manager does and says it is extremely important for safety culture, and as a manager is not necessary to wait for the attitudes of employees to change in order to change behaviour. Remember what happened when we introduced the requirement for safety belts in cars, which many people were opposed to. Most people would still wear them today even if the requirement were removed. In this case the rule came before the change in attitudes.
The last speaker of the day was the psychologist and researcher Arto Nordlund, the title of his lecture being ”Crisis reactions and stress – how safe is it?”