Embodying safety projects in maritime schools

For many years the main focus of seafarer’s training has been on improving the technical aspects of naviga­tion and engineering systems to improve safety – the man-machine interface competence. Though these efforts have been very successful in the reduction of accident rates in the safety critical maritime industry, it appears that a ‘safety level plateau’ has now been reached. Accidents still happen despite all our efforts and the numbers LTAs (Lost Time Accidents) have not improved over the last 5 to 8 years. Due to this LTA plateau, new training approaches and innovations are now being considered to stimulate further advancement.

Human factor variables integration to MET or soft skills training great­ly constitutes this new approach. This ‘different’ approach to safety will be focused on the culture of the organization or the behavior of the people responsible for managing safety and the safety culture they have developed. The safety culture focus is recognized as the best way to push a company’s safety capabilities to a higher level.

With the advent of the ISM code being enforce since 2002 and with safety data in hand, it can be deduce to affect a minimum impact to safety behavior hence, it becomes obvious that reinforcement or behavioral conversion must start in a much earlier level of MET to af­fect a great deal of change in the mindset of future seafarers.

The said conversion entails competence in leadership and soft skills – cul­ture management, effective communication and feedback, risk manage­ment, risk assessment, knowledge of preventive measures, job execution, etc… These competencies should mature first and in time can serve as the base where additional competence and skills can be built upon.


Developing the mindset

The Embody Safety project was initiated because of the general per­ception of many shipping companies, notably Danish shipping com­panies, which the task of improving seafarer safety and risk awareness competence development activity should have been dealt with more efficiently at an earlier stage. In other words, safety competencies should have been embedded earlier in the maritime learning and train­ing institutions where safety habits can be easily formed, where super­vision is adequate and where students behavior are still malleable.

This means that school’s safety organizations can affect changes through inception of specific safety competence development process alongside the highly technical maritime curriculum and since seafar­ers’ actions and behavior are closely linked to the idea of competen­cies they perceived they have; it’s like hitting two birds with one stone – technical and soft-skills assimilation. This way the embedded safety culture that students gain will mirror the safety culture that the student meets when they embark as part of the crew or an officer. This leads to the vision of zero accidents on board – and on shore.

In this respect it is important not only to look at the training taking place during the classroom sessions. It is also important to assess to what degree the school’s own safety culture impacts the safety com­petencies of the students.

Developing the safety mindset needed for a career as a seafarer re­quires an open communication between the shipping companies and the source of their manpower requirements – the maritime education and training (MET) academies. With this in mind, the embody safety initiative have the primary objective of bringing the two entities (Ship­ping and MET institutions) much closer together in solving a decade old safety manpower issues – safety behavior training.

Initial phase analysis

The ‘Embody Safety’ substantive joint project was initiated in 2009 with a visit to the project partners and it is now entering a phase where the partners start to gain valuable input.

There are 3 renowned maritime academies for this endeavor that is in partnership with SIMAC (Svendborg International Maritime Academy) in Denmark: AMET University in India, PMMA (Philippine Merchant Ma­rine Academy) in Philippines and SMU (Shanghai Maritime University) in China. The Danish delegation and project group is composed of represen­tatives from A. P. Moller – Maersk, Green-Jakobsen and SIMAC. Green-Jakobsen is currently developing the toolboxes that will enable faculty and management at the maritime academies to imbed an industry leading safety culture building on the leading risk management principles.

The project goal is to assess the degree of possibility to develop, im­prove and integrate safety training and risk awareness at the above mentioned training institution. This necessitates the carrying out of gap analysis between the existing training activities and the perceived optimum training processes and consequently is able to iden­tify training needs educational approaches to implement improvements.

The gap analysis identified a number of potential development areas. These areas include but not limited to: the training institution’s safety culture, vision and goal settings, safety policy, and top management engagement, educational principles applied during training, instructor competencies, training materials and familiarity with safety re­gimes both local and international.

Educational approach

To evaluate how the training institutions can ensure the development of the appropriate personal capabilities it is important to assess what is defined as the schools’ didactic learn­ing approach and to understand the culture/safety culture at the various schools.

During this process we have focused primar­ily on the considerations made by faculty members in connection with their own pre­sentations and their interaction with the stu­dents, and how goals are defined – if defined.

The lecturer/student interaction reveals (based on the safety survey) a huge gap in safety inte­gration in the safety management training pro­cess descriptions. This mean that MET on these institutions has become a system of knowl­edge training only. This ‘educational method’ instills the habit of assuming—of carelessly taking for granted—without question—what­ever is commonly accepted. This knowledge is mostly organization base. What the students need to have the right overview when dealing with safety is the right understanding of the ba­sic individual safety awareness to complement another level of the risk management process – the crew level risk management system.

It follows then, that in terms of safety man­agement it is important that the instructor, over time, focuses the training on all levels of safety.

Organizational level: Safety Management System, procedures, checklist etc.

The Risk Management Circle illustrates the importance and interconnection of the three levels of safety awareness. In order to embed a natural understanding of the crew and at the individual levels the present educational prin­ciples and training should, to a higher degree, be arranged to support this learning process.

Today the main focus is at the organizational level – following procedures and orders. The Or­ganizational level is basically regulated by Safety Management Systems guided by the ISM Code. Further, the tendency has been to regulate all de­tails at crew level by the use of the overall ISM management system, which then easily becomes cumbersome and greatly lacking operational ef­ficiency and ownership at crew level.

This creates a challenge at the institutes where a disciplined approach towards the students is dominant. A disciplined approach will re­quire rules and thereby induce a compliance culture, but when it comes to the area of risk management, individuals must be able to handle complex situations where just follow­ing procedures will not always be the safest approach. In short, students must develop a safety competence where they will not mere­ly rely on rules and procedures; they need to learn to make their own assessment of the current situation and occasionally adjust the working procedure to fit the given situation.

Embody safety teaching approach should there­fore; set the scene for reflection, dialogues and discussions between students and instructors. The atmosphere should allow a questioning at­titude, team processes of problem solving and expressions of concerns and possible solutions.

The key to embody safety training is direct mentoring or apprenticeship. This training is centered more on the development of safety behavior aspect preparation for the seafaring trade; a gradual development towards safety maturity – the shipping industry’s safety goals could then be seamlessly integrated. Students in a way are being trained and treated as an ap­prentice safety advocates; being molded to be­come a highly conscious safety individual – a safety expert to be more precise. This training concept ensures a holistic approach to MET.

This cannot be done without the realization that a technical curriculum is highly deficient in scope to address the problem of competency and it is perceived that embody safety will cover train­ing gaps pertaining to safety mindset embedding and formation and hypothetically speaking; it is only then that technical competence will have a reliable tool to complement it. (Eric green and Dave Baberi-Green Jakobsen Phils.)