–     A case based on Seatrans Shipmanagement assessments and development programme

The million-dollar question to all the work Green-Jakobsen is involved in to improve the safety culture of shipping companies is: does it work? Do the many initiatives actually result in an improved safety culture of a company?

Through a number of years Green-Jakobsen has worked closely with Seatrans Shipmanagement to improve the company’s safety culture. This article is a brief  description of the course of events carried out, concluded by comments from the various Seatrans employees  and observations made by the DNV GL auditor Steinar Dahl about the efforts and results achieved so far.

The first Safety Maturity Assessment and findings

In 2012 Green-Jakobsen performed a Safety Maturity Assessment of Seatrans Shipmanagement. The assessment addressed a broad range of elements that are vital building blocks for the safety culture.

During this first assessment it was identified that the safety maturity level was inconsistent and with huge performance variations within the organisation.

One main finding of the assessment was that the Seatrans employees (ship and shore) had an un-unified understanding on how to apply appropriate safety principles and manage important safety processes. Despite the fact that employees generally expressed a will to improve the company safety culture the performance was non-homogenous without a clear understanding of how e.g. they could contribute positively to the safety culture.

Further to this, there was a lack of middle manager safety support and involvement, and various safety culture ‘building blocks’ were missing. Besides, the level of employee safety competencies was very dispersed. However, the constant safety focus and on-going efforts from the HQSE management to improve the Seatrans safety culture was recognised and appreciated.

Focus areas

As a result of the Safety Maturity Assessment a number of recommendations were made with key focus on the following areas:

Management and appraisal of safety competencies
In order to improve employee safety competencies these have to be evaluated and developed in a structured manner
Safety Leadership
Officers’ and managers’ influence and direct safety performance and need to understand how to manage this process in the best possible manner
Learning and development safety programmes and processes
Implementation of appropriate learning and development processes and familiarisation linked to business goals and values
Office staff middle management commitment
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
I feel I’m supported from the office. I feel I get the help and support I need. The communication between vessel and office is good, I think. The managers are not coming just to give out procedures, he talks with us. I never experienced that they said they can’t help if I have been asking -Master

All these recommendations plus a number of other initiatives have been rolled out over the last 2 years to the entire organisation and across the 3 vessel segments. Safety leadership training has been conducted for all senior officers, important competence management processes have been improved, Behavioural Based Safety have been rolled out, safety standards and key processes have been refined and improved, on-going communication efforts have been made, office staff have integrated safety in the daily communication with company vessels, officer seminars include in-depth and interactive discussions and processes on safety performance, etc. etc.  In total a very focused and committed engagement.

The second Safety Maturity Assessment and findings

As a follow-up of the efforts made in the ongoing Safety maturity development Seatrans decided to make the second Safety maturity assessment in 2015. In the Seatrans office they had a feeling that things had changed for the better, but they wanted to get an indicator of the effect and another pointing stick for the future. According to the assessment the overall score has undoubtedly improved to move a full step up the maturity ladder – from level 2 (reactive) to level 3 (calculative) and within some areas even higher. The report highlights changes identified as:

Higher level of involvement of crew in safety related matters
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
Improved perception of teamwork and safety responsibilities
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
Increased satisfaction with the work atmosphere among crew
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
Increased awareness of the benefits of risk assessment and through planning of tasks
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
Improved communication regarding best practice work (safety behaviour)
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
After the first leadership course the officer began to use the leadership tools and that made a big difference in the communication on board. And also the “burger model” – we joke about that a lot so we remember it and it works -2nd Officer

However, the biggest areas of progress between the two assessments lie within the elements:

Executive commitment,
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
Officers’ and managers’ safety commitment,
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
Safety leadership and competence
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
Performance management.
Various activities to institute just and fair safety culture principles for all managers and senior officers
For me the culture is changing, rapidly going up, and the focus on safety especially. The leadership courses are really good, and I feel now that we work as a team -Chief Engineer

Company KPI’s show that the number of personnel injuries dropped in 2014 to the lowest level since 2007, and 2015 KPI’s are looking even more positive. Looking at the number of observations there is also a clear trend of improvement.

Erik Mohn, Head of Crewing at Seatrans Shipmanagement comments:

“Now we can document our safety performance development – not only on KPI’s, but having the report is a good form of documentation in itself of a positive development. In the recent audit carried out by DNV GL our efforts were noted and appreciated. They specifically emphasised our improvements within involvement, safety reporting, executive commitment and safety leadership. 

DNV GL  also found it interesting that we have a well-considered plan for our continued safety improvement efforts, including our safety leadership training and that we have included our safety mindset in our staff induction. They appreciate the continuity of our efforts. A major advantage is that the leadership training and appraisal process are actively incorporating the assessment issues brought forward. According to the DNV GL we have come a long way and we are leading the way within the industry.

There is no doubt that middle management including the superintendents have been ‘moved’ safety-wise – it is extremely important to have their buy-in and that they can take this further.”

I think they get better and better, especially with these courses and they can see it’s not just one day but a continuous process -Technical Superintendent

Steinar Dahl, DNV GL comments:

“In the audit we made we had a substantial number of talks with Seatrans office personnel, covering safety issues, security and environmental issues. We were looking at the management systems and evaluated if there are good working conditions and how they monitor and follow up on the ships’ performance. During these talks I was presented with the assessment report and the plans for safety behaviour initiatives taking place in Seatrans. The CEO, among others, stated that he was highly motivated by this safety project, which is mainly focusing on personal safety as the main improvement area, and he was eager to follow it onwards.

What I also found interesting was that it is based on ideas on how to improve through behaviour and not through procedures. The aim is to develop people on board to work with safety by ‘reflex’ and to get rid of check list behaviour. My impression is that the entire top management is very committed, and there is definitely a persistency from the office to keep the focus on these safety behaviour ideas. And I can only approve of this, as it is exactly the way we think safety.

My overall evaluation is that they are very proactive; in fact, I would have given them a higher score than what was given in the draft assessment report that had just been released when I was doing the audit. They have done a lot on the safety approach, now they also move forward culture-wise”.

Yes, I try to show them, first and foremost by being like a role model. We have some posters which we often change because people get more conscious when you change the environment. I am very much aware of that -Master
I feel the management push me in the right way – because they have such a passion in doing this and you feel the passion, so it’s inspiring -2nd Officer
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Janne Haugland
Janne Haugland
Communications and HR Manager
Copenhagen

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