30 January 2017

SeaSafety study: Winds of change in safety at sea

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), shipping companies and authorities have together tested new tools; tools which aviation has already found to work well. These new tools, tailor-made for seafaring are presented in an impressively illustrated guide, Safely at Sea.

The Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi received 41 reports of accidents in Finnish territorial waters in 2016. However, the accidents were small, and the overall level of safety at sea is good.

The management of seafaring safety is guided by the International Safety Management Code (IMS code), which is based on surveys, inspections and documentation that have helped attain a certain level of safety.

“The IMS code has had the tendency to place too much emphasis on the responsibility and authority of the master of the vessel, and this has merely further reinforced the hierarchical nature of seafaring”, says Specialized Researcher Anna-Maria Teperi from FIOH.

“In the future, we must strengthen workers’ commitment to and participation in safety culture. This kind of work has already begun in the organizations that participated in the study.

“The risk has been that incidents, for example, may have been left unreported, because people believe that reports lead to searching for mistakes and blaming. This of course should not be the case. Non-conformity reports should be handled in constructive co-operation, and parties should think about how the situation was handled: what was successful and which things should be done differently in the future,” reminds Teperi.

Networking promotes development

Supervisors play an important exemplary role by making non-conformity discussions open forums for learning. They are also key persons in initiating alternative measures and in persistently taking matters further.

One of SeaSafety’s recommendations is to establish a network for maritime operators, in which they can continue their dialogue. Sharing experiences and co-developing could provide support for supervisors in particular.

Good tools for maritime transport, nuclear power and rail transport from aviation

The human factor perspective has not become established in seafaring safety thinking as well as it has in the fields of, for example, aviation and nuclear power. Applications are also currently being put into practice in rail traffic.

“We studied and tested the suitability of the tools used in aviation for seafaring,” explains Teperi.

“These tools are, for example, the Safety Management tool, the Human Factor tool and the
Mental First Aid model.

“The Human Factor tool, for example, was considered exceptionally suitable for the analysis of and discussions on non-conformity situations. It highlighted the successes and strengths of the personnel and comprehensively clarified which factors affected the incidents. However, its use requires planning and practice.

The Safely at Sea guide helps develop everyday safety practices

Practical versions of the tools have been compiled into a guide called Safely at Sea: Our role in creating safety. The guide is meant for all seafarers and, for example, safety managers at shipping companies, and educational institutions.

The guide makes the terms related to human factors and safety culture more familiar, and applicable for use at the workplace.

Want to know more?

Project Leader, Specialized Researcher Anna-Maria Teperi, FIOH, tel. +358 43 8257 454, anna-maria.teperi(at)ttl.fi, Twitter: @AnnaMariaTeperi

Guide in English: Safely at Sea: Our role in creating safety. Teperi, Anna-Maria; Puro, Vuokko. FIOH 2017.

In Finnish: Turvallisesti merellä- Me turvallisuuden tekijöinä. Anna-Maria Teperi ja Vuokko Puro. Työterveyslaitos 2016.

Research report (in Finnish, summary in English):  Merenkulun turvallisuuskulttuurin arviointi ja kehittäminen – parempaa turvallisuutta inhimillisten tekijöiden hallinnalla. Työterveyslaitos 2017.

Trafin tiedote 5.1.2017 – Merenkulku 2016

Project website (in Finnish): www.ttl.fi/seasafety

APPENDIX: Table. Differences between the traditional and new approaches (Hollnagel 2014; Reason 2008)

SAFETY 1 The traditional approach to realizing and developing safetySAFETY 2
 The new approach to realizing and developing safety
Safety = the risk of unwanted events is as low as possibleSafety = as much as possible goes right and is successful.
Reactive approach: safety is developed by eliminating risks, failures, errors and their underlying reasons .Proactive approach: events are identified and anticipated.
Focus on factors that impair safety, on “what goes wrong”.Focus on successes and factors that maintain safety.
People are perceived as sources of errors, risk factors or risks.It is accepted that human action always entails variance and the prerequisites of action are always subject to restrictions, which requires adaptation.
E.g. creating new operating methods, avoiding error situations, mitigating consequences, compensating for missing resources and ensuring that work goes right.
People are perceived as assets (“rescuers”) that bring flexibility, elasticity and tolerance into systems in constantly changing work situations.