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Creating a safety culture

safety culture

Creating a safety culture

Instead of whistleblowing, creating a safety culture might be a better idea to make every voyage smoother

Sea safety is a hot button topic. No part of any vessel is exempted from heavy responsibilities. Both shipowners and operators play an important role in ensuring safety is enforced round the clock. Nonetheless, ambiguity can still happen.

The two sides of whistleblowing
Whistleblowing is defined as making a disclosure that is in the public interest, and usually involves law enforcement or regulatory body. Though whistleblowing is encouraged at the occurrence of clear wrongdoings, it can be a slippery slope for seafarers. In the United States, it is deemed as facilitating prosecution efforts in cases of environmental crimes.

There is an Act that awards individuals up to half of the fine incurred by the company upon a convicted case. This is a huge windfall for seafarers. It might look like a responsible act to report any wrongdoing, but beneath can be a web of devious business practices.

Another perspective
Doing it for a windfall may seem like a good idea in the United States. In other countries, it is a recipe for disaster. Whistleblowing need not happen if there is a positive relationship between shipowners and seafarers – even if the latter group is recruited by a third party. Vendettas can happen if the wrong group is riled up, it can also cause unofficial blacklisting.

It would make more sense to cultivate a real and functioning safety system that works for all. Nurturing needs effort and it comes with challenges. Constructive enforcement of safety regulations will motivate the crew to follow suit.

Steps to create a safety culture
Establishing a safety culture is a good alternative in comparison to enforcing regulations. Below are steps shipowners and seafarers in leadership can take to forge safety culture onboard.

1) Define safety responsibilities
Ensure everyone plays a part in upholding safety; shared vision. All need to be educated even on the importance of reporting injuries, first aids and near misses. Never assume zero reports equate to optimum safety, it could suggest an ineffective reporting system.

2) Enforce accountability and provide reporting options
Disallow short-cuts concerning safety. Encourage seafarers to feedback and report concerns, where feasible solutions can be brainstormed and implemented. Establish a strong investigation system to give seafarers the assurance their interests are protected.

3) Build trust and celebrate success
Trust is a crucial trait in any working group. The crew will certainly deliver beyond expectations knowing they are being taken care of, and recognised for their contributions. Gratitude is a powerful motivator.

When everyone receives equal assurance their interests are protected and welfare counts, shipowners and captains are assured of a safe and harmonious voyage. However, forging good relationships is an art. Shipowners and captains can look to Marine Online for a variety of leadership or soft skills based courses to shape a safety culture.