Work environment manager at Seko Seafarers – More training needed

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The physical work environment is often quite good on Swedish ships, but more involvement in psychosocial issues is needed according to Pelle Andersson, work environment manager at Seko Seafarers.
About one year ago he started as work environment manager at Seko Seafarers. The issues were already familiar after his years as a seaman and safety officer in the archipelago fleet, but he says that the work environment is a huge area that is constantly changing, so he has had a lot to learn.
”The rules are rather detailed and complicated, and we must consider both Swedish and international legislation. In the area of work environment legislation, new research and updates are constantly being added.”
As a work environment manager Pelle Andersson has a lot of tasks to handle, including referrals, organising training and giving support to safety officers on ships. He is also called in when ships are flagged, to ensure that the work environment on board complies with the rules in force.
”Generally, the shipping companies know what is required, but sometimes there are issues to be fixed before the ship can be given a Swedish flag. Mostly there are solutions, but not always.”
Examples of changes that are difficult or too large to implement are increasing the size of interior spaces, moving mooring equipment or change the slope of ladders.
”As a last resort, we can allow the supervisory authority to issue dispensation and try to find new routines instead. But when it comes to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) there is very little space for exceptions. The regulations are already at a minimum level that must not be compromised, and we can do nothing about it,” says Pelle Andersson.
He says that a lot of his work is about collaborating with employers and striving to create the best possible conditions for crews through discussions and negotiations.
”Cooperation often works well, especially with the major deep sea shipping companies and ferry companies. Domestic companies do not always have the same knowledge and experience of working with these issues, and that is something you notice. They sometimes order new ships without talking to us, and there may be problems later when the ships don’t meet requirements.”
Something that applies to the shipping industry in general though, according to Pelle Andersson, is the psychosocial work environment.
“The whole #MeToo movement shows that we need to work more on issues such as banter and social interactions on board. More needs to be done with the problem of high sickness absence among service personnel, and the stress that many people experience.”
“In order to make progress with the work environment, we need more knowledge and training at all levels,” says Pelle Andersson.
“And that applies at all levels. Our work environment training is primarily aimed at safety officers, but they are open to everyone. There are usually one or two mates involved, some nurses and HR people, but we rarely see any service officers, which is a shame. We need more knowledge of these issues in all departments.”
Pelle Andersson
Age: 38
Family: Wife and two children.
Bor: In Gustavsberg, Värmdö.
Lives: One year as work environment manager at Seko Seafarers.
Background: Operations and maintenance at upper secondary school, FB VII training in Kalmar, military service as boat chief in the navy, able-body seaman at Thunbolaget, Bylock and Nordsjöfrakt and Utö shipping company, where he was also a safety officer. Regional safety officer for national shipping in 2012.
Work environment tip: Have a good action plan for investigating victimisation and harassment. The parties must be heard separately and both parties are entitled to support. It is important that the shipping company has a really sound policy document; it makes it much easier to investigate what has happened.
Linda Sundgren, text and photo

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