The Human Element of HSEQ – The full package of safety management

Alert! Issue No.26, via The Nautical Institute

You cannot produce a safety management system on the cheap, nor expect people to snap to attention and follow procedures when the top management fails to provide the resources, while failing to exhibit a positive attitude to safety.

There is some tough talking and good reading in the latest issue of the International Maritime Human Element Bulletin Alert! which develops the themes of health, safety, security, environment and quality (HSEQ) – the essential components of an integrated management system. Practical and expert contributors demonstrate that safety is not something that raises its head at safety meetings, but must be woven into the fabric of both the organization and the individual, ashore and aboard.

What are the stumbling blocks to the International Safety Management Code reaching its full potential? A thoughtful study suggests that while the ISM Code might seem to be just a set of tools, a range of conditions which include full employee participation, the acceptance of seafarers as equal partners, and a radical change of mindset are needed to escape the authoritarian tick-box mentality that it can become in the wrong hands.

Common sense and seamanship are often forgotten in our regulated world, where blaming and firing people who make mistakes seem a traditional, but self-evidently ineffective ‘incentive’ to improvement. There is a need to view individuals as competent, reliable, capable and professional. A change of attitude to individuals can, it is suggested, make a difference. But attitudes need to be changed from the very top of a company, in its leadership and the fostering of knowledge and skills throughout the organization. Uncomfortable truths, perhaps?

It is also important that HSEQ managers are brought in out of the cold, with proper training added to long industry experience, and that they be allowed to operate close to the center of an organization. They also need to be regarded as a help by those aboard ship, as participation and feedback from those at sea makes all the difference. The development of an informed, reporting and just culture that are the hallmarks of real safety improvement come from a proactive and rewarding atmosphere, in which a genuine safety culture will flourish.

Another contributor in this hard-hitting issue suggests here is also a need for the industry to recognise some of the recurring problems that must be addressed, such as flaws in bridge resource management; thoughtless design that leads to ‘slips, trips and falls’; enclosed entry procedures and the obsession with trying to do things on the cheap.

In this issue of Alert! real experts confront real industry problems, showing that there are no half measures in the development of a positive, integrated attitude to safety and that any approach to HSEQ must be ‘human-centered’.

This is the ‘full package’!

The Latest issue of the Alert! bulletin (No. 26) can be downloaded HERE (Click for PDF)