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Press Article: Safety is directly linked to training and experience

24 April 2017

In an exclusive interview with SAFETY4SEA, Yves Vandenborn, Director of Loss Prevention, talks about the club’s initiatives to tackle human error. He notes that there is a need to enhance situational awareness and reassess the risks involved in daily operations in order seafarers not to deal with them as routine tasks. Therefore, Capt. Vandenborn concludes that safety culture with quality experience is crucial for loss prevention and explains how the club works towards that end.


What do you think is the biggest challenge for the industry loss prevention wise?

The biggest challenge is the poor quality of crew training, lack of experience and the crew not ‘buying in’ to the principles of safety. Extensive experience enables crew to predict, recognise and prevent hazardous situations. At The Standard Club, we frequently see claims for incidents that would not have occurred if the personnel were properly trained and experienced. Such issues are exacerbated by the crew’s detachment from the principles of safety management. Safety needs to be in the DNA of crew members to make it effective, that kind of culture takes time to cement and it is not currently prevalent in many organisations.

 

What do you believe are the most efficient loss prevention measures? Have you realized any tangible benefits from the communication with your members so far that you would like to share?

We’ve learned that the most effective measures are those which involve us working closely with our members. We have a process called the Member Risk Review (MRR) in which we visit the member, look at the particulars of their ship operations and see if there are any areas which might benefit from our support/advice. The aim is to drill down to the member’s specific and direct needs so that preventative action can be taken. In addition, we recently completed a loss prevention project for one of our larger members which included a thorough review of the member’s incidents, near misses and superintendent reports, combined with our own on-board investigation, allowing us to make very specific recommendations to further improve the member’s safety procedures.

 

Regarding the claims received from your members last year, which was the major contributor factor for the majority of them? Have you noticed any worrying trend during the last five to ten years?

Complacency and lack of situational awareness are major contributors. Seafarers fail to appreciate that some aspects of a routine task may have changed and that the process which worked fine the last time, may not this time. There is a need to constantly reassess the risks involved as regular exposure to risk desensitises seafarers. Seafarers must never lose sight of the bigger safety picture and their place in it. This kind of awareness comes from an effective safety culture, combined with quality experience.

 

What should be the key priorities for the shipping industry for strengthening safety performance onboard and ashore? What best practices would you recommend from your perspective?

Safety is directly linked to training and experience; this means more than the ability of a crew member to do his/her job. Training should include not only the ‘how’, but also the ‘why’. Promoting properly experienced crew is key to this process as experience equips crew members with the antennae to detect unsafe combinations of events and the confidence to overcome them. Seafarers often don’t know why procedures protect them and may consider them an encumbrance. Training should be provided which emphasises why working within procedures is safer and better.

 

How does the Standard P&I Club promote loss prevention across the industry? Are there any projects that you are working on right now regarding loss prevention?

We are always looking for new ways to reach our target audiences, primarily the seafarers themselves and the managers within the ship owning organisation. We favour a multi-faceted approach; communicating our loss prevention messages via conferences/seminars, publications, projects and engagement with like-minded organisations. Twice a year we hold a ‘safety and loss advisory committee’ meeting comprised of senior ship managing representatives from our membership, allowing us to gain direct feedback from our members on important issues and claim trends which helps direct our loss prevention initiatives. As a result we have instigated four initiatives to tackle the issues seen regarding human error.

The first was our successful ‘spot the hazard’ competition which encouraged seafarers to identify potential hazards in every day scenes on board ships and think of original ideas to promote safety at sea. We also worked with VideoTel to create a new training video on the importance of near-miss reporting as an effective way to reduce the toll of preventable incidents at sea. To further encourage the near-miss reporting we are also working closely with CHIRP (Confidential Hazardous Incident Report Programme) to produce a series of video hazard bulletins. Each eight minute production promotes good safety practices and provides excellent material for discussion during a ship’s safety committee meeting. It encourages ship owners and operators to look at their organisation’s own performance, and urges seafarers to report via their internal channels or to CHIRP (confidentially) to help improve safety.

Finally, we have also been assisting in the development of a new Human Element book to raise awareness of the issue of incidents at sea being caused by human error. This is due to be published toward the end of 2017.

 

This interview was published in SAFETY4SEA, available online here, and is reproduced with kind permission.