Linkedin Article - Why it's time to deep-six our current safety culture

Why it’s time to deep-six our current safety culture

Arguably, the single biggest negative impact on safety is the legal doctrine of proximate cause. Proximate cause tends to be found, not unreasonably, adjacent or close to the undesired outcome. It is at this end of the chain that the shipboard or control room operators work and their acts or omissions at the time are usually implicated in the “cause”. This perpetuates the distorted view that human error in the operational phase is the cause of most casualties. In reality, operator error may be no more than a causal factor that combined with other causal factors to form a cause.


Sometimes I wish I could find some cozy academic job somewhere that I could work 9-5 figuring out all the things you and @Earl_Boebert1 post. It would, of course, be a full time job but I think it would well be worth the effort :wink:

This is an argument I have often made. Culture to me implies something that is inherent in a group of people based on common experience and handed down from generation to generation. On the other hand Merriam Webster defines the first two meanings of the word as:
a : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time popular culture Southern culture
b : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization a corporate culture focused on the bottom line.
Until we separate a from b there will be no “safety culture” , there will be merely ‘b’ portraying itself as 'a.'
We all [OK most] know, hopefully, it is not wise to put scissors in an electrical outlet or speed thru the city at 100 kmh. One is learned cultural knowledge that is avoided because it could result in injury or death, the other a known regulation that could seriously affect our bank account and perhaps our freedom.
As long as the bottom line usurps everything else there will be no ‘safety culture’, unless some protection/regulation by an objective 3rd party makes it more expensive to ignore safety than to do otherwise.

This was a decent read, and I don’t necessarily disagree with the guy, in fact agree with most of it. BUT the thing I now notice about these revelations about safety culture is they are now brought to light by safety professionals themselves. You know the guys with CSP or the words investigator or Consultant after their names. No longer the bitching and moaning of the poor sap sailing and trying to work the levers of a given SMS to change it. A seaman pointing out “it doesn’t really work this way” usually doesn’t get you very far.

So now after many wasted manhours and money “they” see it isn’t working. On one level I’m happy to see some deeper thinking on the subject but on the other hand I am getting that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever “they” show up with better ideas.

“Better late than never” is all I can muster at this time and who knows what fresh programmatic hell their recent “seeing the light” has in store for us?

When some IMO committee member reads something like this (from the linked post):

Meanwhile, the cognitive approach seems to be overlooked. Why are marine
operators not given the cognitive tools to understand their roles and
function effectively? For example, it is difficult these days to find
shipboard electronic equipment that does not go through a
self-diagnostics routine when it is switched on. Where are the
self-diagnostics routines, both literal and figurative, for humans?
Where is the self-knowledge and self-awareness that will help prevent
us from sabotaging our prodigious ability to perform effectively and
safely? Where is the application of metacognition and meta memory to
learning and human information processing? Where is the emphasis on
critical thinking? Where is the joined-up thinking on the use of
training simulators – probably the most important technology available
for improving safety?

What new training can we expect - to the exclusion of actual trade, craft, professional development training? Or heaven forbid actual manning to support people training people on ships in their chosen profession. What new vague policies and procedures are on the way?

What’s to be lost by letting those with the most skin in the game actually have a say in how to improve the system?

Some time ago @freighterman ( What the hell is good semanship ) described a system of training at his company where the company was actually devoting resources to training people in the basics of their job and being evaluated in those before moving on to the fleet. Does that sort of system really cost more than hiring CSP’s to produce mountains of words, reporting burdens, to produce KPI’s that can be used to enlarge the HSE departments to produce more reports that require more data to “prove” where “they on the ship are going wrong”?

I am not arguing to ignore the science at work. Reading a paper by Leveson or a book by Boebert is far from wasted manhours. If you pick up one insight to improve your approach or attitude as you go about your daily routine of operating and maintaining a ship that is a huge success. If you read it and work in an HSE department you may come away with different ideas. Remember you CSP’s out there “first do no harm”.

So go ahead safety professionals, you tell us again what is wrong and how to fix it. What could go wrong? As long as it costs less than hiring an extra guy to be trained onboard or designating one ship the training ship where new guys are cycled through to make sure they know “what the hell seamanship is” or sending someone to a makers school - you will be sure to sell your new “solution” to ownership (or IMO).

I just can’t help but recall a Calvin and Hobbes punch line: “Careful! We don’t want to learn anything from this.”

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Here is one part I disagree with.

Where is the joined-up thinking on the use of training simulators – probably the most important technology available or improving safety?

Do you think simulators are “the most important technology available for improving safety”?

Collision avoidance / bridge management / ship handling issues? Perhaps. But what about all the HSEQ data coming down? LTI’s, MTC’s, FAC’s and on and on. Pie charted by department and type of injury and body part. The case is often made that finger/hand injuries are by far the most frequently occurring. How do simulators figure into that “improving safety” area? Would some closely supervised work (by having sufficient manning available) have more effect than even adding (literal) layers of protection - gloves, “special” cutting devices (that don’t cut) or watching a video, etc?

Link didn’t work for me from the app. This should be it:

That particular article didn’t seem all that good. If I read a technical article on something like DP I don’t expect to understand all the details but hopefully I get the gist of it.

In this case I understand most of the points being made, for example the COLREGs and the sharp end vs the blunt end. I never came across behaviourist and cognitive before but I wasn’t convinced that that was what I needed to tie the whole thing together.

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