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PostHeaderIcon ... Casualties of the marine industry


As part of the safety content of this web site I'll focus on some major accidents that have essentially changed the way the industry operates. The Exxon Valdez comes to mind as it was the main reason we've been introduced to OPA 90 regulations, and contributed significantly to STCW implementation as well. This is only a short preamble to the articles ahead, but one thing we all need to focus on is, that safe working environment can only be made such, if all parties involved fully understand the meaning of a safe operation.  It's a learning process that unfortunately has often been misconstrued.

  • broken_ship_at_sea
  • exxon_valdez
  • on_the_rocks

As incidents amassed, the marine industry started looking deeper into the underlying causes. Soon enough consensus was reached on the need to minimise human error, which in turn was attributed to two main causes:

  • fatigue &
  • inadequate training

What followed could have been easily predicted: cut back on working hours and implementation of various training schemes. Both good things, but as we've been focusing on mariner's "diplomas", we've lost track on the big picture. We may have slowed down some type of casualties, yet we've been unable to drive the safe thinking into popular minds.

Here is an example: it is a rather common matter these days, that cell phones are not allowed on a deck of a tanker. The fact that virtually everyone involved must know about it should go uncontested. Yet, time and again, there is always someone who's going to do it, or try it. Now, how is this possible, provided our approach works, that after being reminded time and again, the idea of cell phone's dangers on tanker's deck does not sink in? Have we gone sideways on this?

Here is an extreme comparison of how footwear affects foot injuries. Not so many years ago I spent close to 3 weeks in a Singaporean shipyard aboard a ship. Ship's crew and most visitors wore work boots, steel toe or not, while numerous shipyard laborers would move around the ship in flip-flops. By the time we were done, there was no foot injuries I was made aware of in the flip-flop crowd and two injuries in the work boot crowd. Do I dare to say wear flip-flops in a workplace? No way. Do I see a problem? Yes I do. Here is why:

  • personal protection gear is essential to creating a safe work place, but if one is not aware of his surroundings such protection may prove of little importance
  • having a safety meeting each and every day makes the management feel good, but does not teach the situational awareness, which is so much more critical to having a productive and safe day
  • filling out numerous forms to ensure we've got all the safety ends covered helps, but does not widen peripheral safety vision, in fact forms often make people feel a lot safer than they should
  • checklists have been taken in some cases to such an extreme, that they've impaired ones ability to think, so how can one fully understand the dangers ahead? after all the checklist has been approved and all is well (later I'll have more on the checklist issue)


Last Updated (Sunday, 04 October 2009 21:51)

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