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SAFETY ON BOARD A SHIP

Every person on board has a responsibility for safety

  • The Company is responsible for ensuring the overall safety of the ship and that safety on board is properly organised and coordinated.

  • The Master has the day-to-day responsibility for the safe operation of the ship and the safety of those on board.

  • Each employer is responsible for the health and safety of their workers.

  • Heads of department are responsible for health and safety in their own department.

  • Each officer/manager is responsible for health and safety for those they supervise and others affected.

  • Each individual seafarer or worker is responsible for their own health and safety and that of anyone affected by their acts and omissions.

Managing occupational health and safety, the development of a positive ‘safety culture’ and the achievement of high standards of safety depend on good organisation and the whole-hearted support of management and all seafarers. Those with specific safety responsibilities are more likely to perform well when management is clearly committed to health and safety. It is also important that procedures are in place so that all seafarers can cooperate and participate in establishing and maintaining safe working conditions and practices.

Appointment of safety officers

On every seagoing ship on which five or more seafarers are employed, the Company is required to appoint a safety officer. The Master must record the appointment of a safety officer – this should be in the official logbook. The safety officer is the safety adviser aboard the ship and can provide valuable assistance to the Company and to individual employers in meeting the statutory responsibilities for health and safety. Some training may be provided on board, but the safety officer should have attended a suitable safety officer’s training course.

Suitable safety officer training should cover the following topics:

1. The tasks of the safety committee; 2. The rights and roles of members of the safety committee; 3. How to carry out risk assessment and management; 4. How to provide the necessary advice to resolve safety concerns or problems and to encourage adherence to prevention principles; 5. Supervision of safety tasks assigned to crew and other seafarers on board, and passengers where applicable; 6. Accident and incident investigation, analysis and making appropriate corrective and preventative recommendations to prevent their recurrence; 7. How to obtain relevant information on a safe and healthy working environment from the competent authority and the Company; 8. Effective means of communication with a multinational crew; and 9. The commitment required to promote a safe working environment on board.


In addition, the safety officer should be familiar with the following:

i. The occupational safety and health policy and program used on board; ii. The safety tasks assigned to crew and other personnel on board, and passengers where applicable; and iii. The safety officer should be familiar with the principles and practice of risk assessment, and should be available to advise those preparing and reviewing risk assessments. It is recognized that, where the safety officer also has other responsibilities (e.g. chief officer) they may well conduct risk assessments themselves. However, the general principle is that the safety officer takes an independent view of safety on behalf of the Company.

Election of safety representatives

On every ship on which five or more seafarers are working, the Company must make arrangements for the election of safety representatives. The number of safety representatives who should be elected will vary according to the number of seafarers on board and where appropriate the number of different departments or working groups. As far as practicable, seafarers at all levels and in all departments should have effective representation. The Master must record the election or appointment of every safety representative in writing – this should be either in the official logbook or in the minutes of safety committee meetings.

Appointment of a safety committee

The Company is required to appoint a safety committee on every ship with five or more seafarers. The committee must be chaired by the Master, and members will include, as a minimum, the safety officer and any elected safety representatives. If practical, in addition to the Company’s competent person, any competent person appointed by other employers should be invited to attend. The Master must record the appointment of a safety committee in writing – this should normally be in the official logbook or minutes of the committee’s meetings.

Duties of safety officers

It is very important that the safety officer maintains a good working relationship with safety representatives by, for example, inviting the relevant safety representatives to join in the regular inspection of each part of the ship or, while carrying out an investigation, consulting them on safety matters and arrangements, and in particular on any follow-up action proposed. The safety officer’s relationship with the safety committee is rather different since the safety officer is both a member of the committee and also to some extent subject to its direction. A committee has the right to inspect any of the records that a safety officer is required by law to keep, and has the power to require the safety officer to carry out any health or safety inspections considered necessary.


Advice on compliance with safety requirements

The safety officer is required by the regulations to try to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Code and any health and safety guidance and instructions for the ship. The safety officer’s role should be a positive one, seeking to initiate or develop safety measures before an incident occurs rather than afterwards. The safety officer should do the following: 1. Be on the lookout for any potential hazards and the means of preventing incidents. 2. Try to develop and sustain a high level of safety consciousness among seafarers so that individuals work and react instinctively in a safe manner and have full regard to the safety not only of themselves but also of others. The objective is to become the ship’s adviser on safety to whom the Master, officers and all seafarers will naturally turn for advice or help on safe working procedures. 3. Where unsafe practice is observed, approach the individual or responsible officer concerned to suggest improvements in the method of working or use the safety committee to discuss examples of dangerous or unsafe practices in a particular area. If this brings no improvement, the safety officer should consider approaching the head of department or, as a last resort, the Master to use their influence. 4. Ensure that each worker joining the ship is instructed in all relevant health and safety arrangements, and of the importance attached to them before starting work. 5. Where possible, ensure that arrangements are made for each new entrant to work with a seafarer who is thoroughly safety conscious. 6. 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.

The safety officer should also promote safety on board, subject to the agreement of the Master, by:

i. Arranging the distribution of booklets, leaflets and other advisory material on safety matters; ii. Supervising the display of posters and notices, replacing and renewing them regularly; iii. Arranging for the showing of films on safety publicity and, where appropriate, organizing subsequent discussions on the subjects depicted; iv. Encouraging seafarers to submit ideas and suggestions for improving safety and enlisting their support for any proposed safety measures which may affect them (the person making a suggestion should always be informed of decisions reached and any action taken); and v. Effectively communicating new requirements or advice in relevant shipping legislation, marine notices and Company and ship’s rules and instructions relating to safety at work about the ship.

Work of safety committees

The safety committee is a forum for consultation between the Master, safety officials and others of matters relating to health and safety. It may be used by individual employers for consultation with the Company and seafarers. Its effectiveness will depend on the commitment of its members, in particular that of the Master. Because of its broad membership, and with the Master as its chairman, the committee has the means to take


effective action in all matters which it discusses other than those requiring the authorization of the Company and individual employers. Safety committee meetings should not be used for the purposes of instruction or training.

The frequency of meetings will be determined by circumstances, but the committee should meet regularly, taking into account the pattern of operation of the ship and the arrangement for manning and with sufficient frequency to ensure continuous improvement in safety. In particular, a meeting should also be held after any serious incident or accident on the ship, if the normal meeting is not due within a week.

An agenda (together with any associated documents and papers, and the minutes of the previous meeting) should be circulated to all committee members in sufficient time to enable them to digest the contents and to prepare for the meeting.

The first item on the agenda should always be the minutes of the previous meeting. This allows any correction to the minutes to be recorded and gives the opportunity to report any follow-up action taken.

The last item but one should be ‘any other businesses’. This enables last-minute items to be introduced, and prevents the written agenda being a stop on discussion. Any other business should be limited to important issues that have arisen since the agenda was prepared. All other items should be submitted for inclusion in the agenda of the next meeting.

The last item on the agenda should be the date, time and place of the next meeting. Minutes of each meeting should record concisely the business discussed and conclusions reached. A copy should be provided to each committee member. They should be agreed as soon after the meeting as possible, or amended if necessary, and then agreed under the first agenda item of the following meeting.

A minutes file or book should be maintained, together with a summary of recommendations recording the conclusions reached, in order to provide a permanent source of reference and so ensuring continuity should there be changes in personnel serving on the committee.

All seafarers should be kept informed on matters of interest which have been discussed, e.g. by posting summaries or extracts from the minutes on the ship’s noticeboards. Suggestions may be stimulated by similarly posting the agenda in advance of meetings.

Relevant extracts of agreed minutes should be forwarded through the Master to the Company and, where appropriate, individual employers, even when the matters referred to have already been taken up with them. A record of response or action taken by the Company should be maintained.

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