I often get asked what has changed in my time at sea, one of the first things that comes to mind is safety, on the whole I firmly believe the industry has really shifted its focus on safety and I have seen attitudes change from ‘let’s just get on with it and give it a go’ and ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ To actually thinking carefully about IS the worse thing that can happen?
When most people think of Deck Officers, they picture; charts, RADARs, ships wheels and the navigator fulfilling his duties to keep a safe navigation watch but often give little consideration to the other work carried out onboard. One of my (many) additional roles onboard is to serve as the vessels appointed safety officer, this role itself can often be a full time job!
The safety officer’s role should be a positive one, seeking to initiate or develop safety measures before an incident occurs rather than afterwards. I have to be on the lookout for any potential hazards and the means of preventing incidents.
I try to develop and sustain a high level of safety consciousness among the crew so that they work and react instinctively in a safe manner and have full regard to the safety not only of themselves but also of others.
If any unsafe practice is observed, it is my job to approach the crew concerned and to suggest improvements in the method of working or use the vessels safety committee meetings to discuss examples of dangerous or unsafe practices in a particular area and highlight incidents from other vessels and also other industries shoreside.
It is also my job to ensure that each worker joining the ship is instructed in all relevant health and safety arrangements, and to remind experienced seafarers joining the ship for the first time of the importance of a high level of safety consciousness and of setting a good example to less experienced seafarers.
As the safety officer I do my best to promote safety on board in a number of other ways, for example; arranging the distribution of booklets, leaflets and other advisory material on safety matters; supervising the display of posters and notices, replacing and renewing them regularly; arranging for the showing of films on safety publicity and, where appropriate, organising subsequent discussions on the subjects depicted; there are actually some very funny safety videos out there but my favourite ones are the ones with shock factor!
I also encourage the crew to submit ideas and suggestions for improving safety and enlisting their support for any proposed safety measures which may affect them.
At the end of the day, safety is everyone’s business and I like to think that my efforts to improve safety awareness onboard also helps with everyday life when we get to go home. As mariners we never truly switch off the safety conscious peripheral vision, we are instinctively always on the lookout.