Ten-year anniversary SAN conference on a sustainable lifestyle for seafarers

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1Team spirit, social clashes and smart ship design. These topics and much more besides were discussed at this year’s SAN conference in Gothenburg. The theme for the day was How to create a sustainable lifestyle for seafarers and ended with a personal talk by the football star, Torbjörn Nilsson.
The first SAN conference in Gothenburg was in 2004. We then highlighted issues such as the work environment law and shipping, alcohol and drugs, and work environment efforts at Wallenius. A wide range of topics have been covered at subsequent conferences, from ergonomics and leadership to accidents and crisis management. Among others participating at this year’s SAN day were two doctors, Karl Forsell and Helena Eriksson. They presented a wide-ranging survey of seafarers’ health showing that social clashes, exposure to chemicals and problems with sleep are common on board. The professor and sleep researcher Torbjörn Åkerstedt also talked about sleep on board. He described how the different watch systems affect people’s sleep and explained that poor sleep in the long term increases the risk of different diseases, including cardiovascular disorders and diabetes. He also underlined the importance of being vigilant about the more direct effects of sleep deprivation.
”Too little sleep results in much worse performance and makes it more difficult for us to take decisions. It also increases the risk of social collisions and conflicts,” he said.
Personal Trainer
Cardiovascular and sports specialist Mats Börjesson was very clear about the need to move to feel good. Half an hour’s exercise a day, five days a week is enough to significantly reduce the risk of lifestyle related diseases.
Karin Gelkén from Stena Line also talked about the benefits of exercise.
”We have worked with health issues for many years at Stena and we have drawn up a health policy, among other things. Our boats are non-smoking, we have a gym on all the ships and there is a personal trainer on board several days a week to give help to those who want it. It is very much appreciated,” she said.
Two crewmembers, John Borgman, chief engineer, and Anneli Borg, chief mate, gave several examples of what can be done to create a good atmosphere at work. Both said it was important to pay attention to every person in the crew and not to be stingy with praise. John had his own theory about why, as he sees it, there is often a better atmosphere among the engine room crew than the deck crew.
”In the engine room we have to use ear defenders when we are working and we can’t talk to each other. When we come to the café we have a pent-up need to talk and that creates a good atmosphere,” he said.
Ships without teething problems
Jan Rasmussen from SAN’s Danish sister organisation, Seahealth, told us about ergonomic design. He showed how work environment experts at Seahealth had helped a ferry company to review the plans for a new ship. The result was a ship that was easy to work on, almost completely without teething problems and with few comments by the authorities.
”We spent between 40 and 50 hours on the project. The investment paid off from day one for the ship-owner,” said Jan Rasmussen.
Christer Lindvall, from the international officers’ organisation IFSMA, talked about the need to be in the right place at the right time when rules are being created, which often takes place internationally in the IMO, the EU and the ILO.
”To be honest we don’t need more rules, even though one or two are still missing. The important thing is for the existing rules to be implemented in national regulations,” he said.
The day ended with a talk by the football star and coach, Torbjörn Nilsson. From a starting-point of sport, he described how to build a well-functioning workplace with good cooperation between the employees.
”I don’t believe in trying to measure each individual ability to decide how good an employee is. If they had measured Glenn Hysén’s chip shots, he would never have played football. The important thing is people’s ability to read the game and act for the common good, which applies within organisations and companies as well as in sport,” he said.
Linda Sundgren

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