More participation when international norms are written and more engagement when new ships are built. This is the way forward for long-term improvements to the work environment onboard according to Laila Danielsson, ship inspector at the Swedish Transport Agency in Göteborg.
After more than 15 years as an inspector at the Swedish Work Environment Agency, in 2008 Laila joined the Swedish Maritime Safety Inspectorate. With her degree in marine engineering and a career spanning many years at sea, ship environments were very familiar to her. However, in her role as ship inspector she reacted to the massive system of rules and regulations in the sector. There are different demands depending on the year of manufacture, type of ship, length and gross tonnage.
– What I am missing is an instrument for structuring the regulations applied to inspections, she says. What we need is a system where you enter all the facts on a ship and receive a specification of requirements tailor-made for the ship in question. There is now an aid in the form of an electronic supervisory handbook, but you still have to read through a lot of text to find the right information.
Effect of the Work Environment Act
Laila is a member of the inspection working group for the work environment. Inspections now include the work environment as a result of the Work Environment Act coming into force at sea in 2004. How the work of the group will be carried out is not yet clear, but progress has been made, Laila explains.
– We need to work more strategically with work environment issues, develop better supervisory tools and aim our efforts where they will have the greatest effect. We also need to create a system for accumulating our experience from accident investigations, deviation and near-miss reports and feed this back into our supervisory operations.
She describes ongoing work in certain prioritised areas in the work environment; at the moment these are chemicals, noise and ergonomics. Initially we discussed highlighting different aspects each year, but that may be extended to three-year intervals in order to harmonise with ship inspections. Laila sees several advantages in applying priority areas instead of inspecting the work environment in general.
– It makes things easier for the inspector if there are clear instructions on what is to be inspected in the work environment. Working with selected activities can also be a good introduction to work environment issues.
Difficult to apply rules retroactively
The structure and content of the rules is also a topical issue in the working group. Wording and reality are sometimes far apart, which can cause a number of difficulties.
– There are problems when applying structural engineering requirements retroactively. One example is the provision on safety devices and safety measures. It contains many detailed requirements with exact measurements for widths, heights, distances and angles of ladders, for example.
– When a ship is being flagged there are often deviations from the regulations, such as angles of ladders, minimum widths between railings and deckhouse and free space in mooring areas. These ships are certified and approved in another country, possibly even in the EU, but they may be challenged in Sweden as a result of higher national requirements. The provision does allow exceptions however, if these are considered reasonable with respect to the ship’s size and limited area of use.
Family: Partner and teenage daughter
Lives: in Härryda outside Göteborg.
Job: Ship inspector, Swedish Transport Agency inspection area Göteborg. Part of working group for the work environment.
Background: Went to sea in the mid-1970’s. Took a marine engineering degree in Göteborg 1983. Has worked in the engine department at Sahlén shipping company and Wallenius. Inspector in manufacturing industry for the Labour Inspectorate (now Swedish Work Environment Authority) since 1992. Swedish Transport Agency since 2008.
Wants separate sets of regulations
It would be good to have separate sets of regulations for new ships and re-flagged ships, Laila believes.
– When designing and building new ships we have better opportunities for influencing issues such as ergonomics, noise, vibrations and fixed constructions. If the regulations are followed, it should not be necessary to check these on every inspection. We need to get better at involving the crew and safety organisations at an early stage. It would make things easier for everybody involved.
In the long-term, work environment activities need to include participation in international work when regulations and norms are drawn up.
– It would be clearer if we took the knowledge that is already written down and applied it in the form of obligatory rules. The authority has a responsibility to be active in this area, says Laila.