A recent report investigating the causes of maritime accidents, many of which injure or kill maritime workers, found that human error is a major problem. More specifically the report found that a big factor in maritime accidents was the failure of people to follow safety management protocol. The report is the Safety Digest, published by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB).
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch
The MAIB is a UK-based organization and a part of the UK’s Department for Transportation. It is dedicated to investigating all kinds of maritime accidents. Although the focus is on UK vessels all around the world, it represents a significant portion of the international maritime industry with conclusions and findings that can be applied to any country and most maritime sectors.
The Safety Digest is published by the MAIB after examining maritime accidents and determining the causes. The information in the report is designed to be used by anyone involved in maritime activities, from large shipping companies to recreational boaters. It is hoped that the information will serve as lessons that will help prevent accidents in the future.
Accidents and Safety Management Systems
The Safety Digest consists of case studies that detail accidents that have occurred recently and that can teach lessons about what to do and what not to do on seafaring vessels. In the most recent report the MAIB notes that a major cause of accidents, in many case studies, is the failure of crew members to follow protocols set out in established safety management systems.
The report’s author cites a disconnect as the underlying issue. In other words, there is a misunderstanding between managers based on shore and workers on vessels. The shore-based managers may have established safety management systems and assume that maritime workers are following them, while on vessels that assumed culture of safety simply doesn’t exist.
The report author also emphasizes that a culture of safety is important, but it does not happen without hard work. Managers cannot assume that workers on board maritime vessels are practicing good safety protocol or working within a safety-first culture.
The MAIB report made note of several incidents that proved there was a disconnect and that safety procedures were often not being followed on vessels. In one case a ship had been repeatedly traveling from port to port with poor stability. In another situation, there had been no risk assessments for a ship that was then involved in a preventable accident. In yet another a captain failed to use an emergency checklist after running the ship aground.
Safety management systems, emergency protocol, and risk assessments are all important for avoiding accidents and minimizing damage, injuries, and loss of life when accidents do happen. What the MAIB safety report highlights is that many accidents, and potentially injuries and deaths, could be prevented simply by ensuring that crew members follow safety procedures. Workers aboard vessels must be a part of the solution, and they will also benefit from the improved safety and from preventing accidents.