SAN awards 2017 – Master the art of putting theory into practice

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Despite her doctor’s title, the much appreciated lecturer and multiple award winner Cecilia Österman sees herself mostly as a seafarer. Perhaps that is the reason behind her ability to turn research results into practical measures on board.
Her long list of merits shows clearly that this year’s SAN prize-winner knows the shipping industry inside out, and has done a great deal to improve the work environment at sea. She is a marine engineer with twelve years at sea; she has worked at the Work Environment Authority; she has worked as a work environment engineer at the Muskö naval shipyard, holds a Ph.D – and much more. Earlier in the autumn she was also awarded the Swedish engineers’ work environment prize, known as the Levi award.
Often on board
“Of course, it’s great fun to be given prizes,” says Cecilia Österman. “But it is also an acknowledgement that I do something useful and my research reaches people.”
Cecilia Österman works hand in glove with the shipping industry. During her research projects she is often on board ships, interviewing seafarers and studying their working methods. She is also a highly sought-after lecturer who turns research findings into practical advice and tips that can be used in daily work on board.
“For me it has always been very important to contribute to concrete improvements,” she says. “I don’t want my reports to lie on shelves in some department gathering dust, where they do no good.”
“Nothing is impossible!”
She says that work environment issues are much more than a job – they are also a great personal interest. It all started when she was growing up, as her father was an officer and safety engineer in the Marines. She has always lived with the idea that nothing is impossible and refuses to accept bad solutions.
“As a woman on board, there is nothing that ever fits properly. You have to use size 45 boots in fire stations, as well as clothes and gloves in men’s sizes. But I’ve never really understood why you can’t be given things that fit well.”
That attitude meant that early in her career she started to look for user-friendly tools, even though the rest of the crew did not always support her.
“I remember when I’d just got promoted to second engineer officer and I ordered an ergonomic wire brush. It has a handle that points up slightly, so you don’t always skin your knuckles, and a rubber surface for a better grip. I was completely ridiculed, but after the others had tried it nobody wanted to use anything else.”
Cecilia will devote the next six months to spreading the results of a comprehensive study of service personnel carried out at Kalmar Maritime Academy. She is also involved in a research project at Karolinska Institutet, studying the work environment in the control room.
“It’s not specifically about ships, it’s about control rooms in general, but the results will be also useful at sea,” she says. Read the jury’s motivation for the SAN prize at:
Cecilia Österman
Age: 46
Family: Husband, also in the maritime industry.
Lives: On Ingarö in the Stockholm archipelago. Has previously lived in Dubai and Lagos, among other places.
Background: Operations and maintenance, maritime engineer degree, work environment inspector at the Work Environment Authority, work environment en-
gineer at Muskö naval shipyard. Ph.D at Chalmers Institute of Technology, 2012. Member of the board at SAN since 2007.
Currently: Winner of the SAN work environment prize, 2017. Also awarded the Levi prize, Sweden’s engineers’ work environment prize.
Work environment tip: Many conflicts arise because we use different words though we mean the same thing. Deal with conflicts at an early stage and dare to ask what the other person really feels instead of losing your temper or turning your back on them.
Linda Sundgren, text and photo

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