Poor safety culture on board

1st June 2020

Poor safety culture on board

Initial Report

Outline:

A report received from a crew member concerned about the safety culture on board his ship and the poor example set by senior crew members.

What the reporter told us:

I have been working on board an LPG carrier for almost three months and I notice the lack of safety here is common. I want to report about the work permit system . The responsible officer is issuing the work permit after the job is done or whilst the job is ongoing. I tried to ask the bosun but he said, ‘it has always been like this’. When I started to argue about this matter, instead of stopping the job until the permit was received, the bosun told the chief officer that I am complaining about the job and the chief officer started to get angry with me. The bosun usually does working aloft jobs without a harness or safety line and it is common for the officer to get mad with you if you question the safety.

Further dialogue:

CHIRP responded and entered a correspondence with the reporter who, from the start, was apprehensive about losing his job if his identity became known. CHIRP was able to allay his concerns and the correspondence continued.

The reporter had been working in this company for 10 years and there were similar situations on other vessels, but a lot depended on the bosun.

The reporter advised that the vessel did carry the required PPE and there was even a matrix posted listing all the PPE required for each specific job which suggested a previous good safety culture. However, the present casual approach towards issuing permits and the bosun’s poor example and reluctance to insist on having permits in hand before starting a job suggested that, currently, the safety culture onboard was poor.

On one occasion, the reporter had by-passed the bosun and approached the chief officer directly regarding the issue of work permits. The meeting had not gone well, with the reporter saying he could always ask the DPA which was apparently perceived as a threat because the chief officer informed the reporter that he would contact the DPA and inform him that the reporter was a troublemaker. After that, the reporter decided not to contact the DPA.

The issue had started a month previously when a ballast tank inspection was being carried out by an IACS surveyor. Crew members were sent into the tank with the surveyor, but the permit was not signed until the crew came out of the tank on completion of the inspection.

Initial attempts by CHIRP to contact the DPA were unsuccessful on two occasions.

CHIRP comment:

At the most recent Maritime Advisory Board meeting, the members of the MAB felt that this report reflected a serious breach of the ISM code and should be pursued further. In addition to putting the crew at risk, the IACS surveyor, who should have made his / her own checks regarding the presence of a valid permit, was also put at risk.

There are tremendous costs, both financial and personal, associated with a poor safety culture and it is not a coincidence that the most safety-conscious companies and ships are invariably the most financially successful.

It was also pointed out that a safety culture can only ever be created and then reinforced from the top of the organisation. It is up to the senior managers to create a good safety culture, both ashore and on board ship. A good safety culture is a constant battle against complacency and indifference.

Final thought:

Following the MAB meeting, efforts were made to contact both the IACS member involved and the relevant flag state administration. The flag state’s response was immediate and positive and full details of the report were passed to the administration. Furthermore, a few days later the vessel manager contacted CHIRP after being alerted by the relevant IACS authority. A full and frank engagement between CHIRP and the vessel manager followed, and appropriate details of the report were passed to the vessel managers to enable an investigation to be carried out.

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