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The importance of a good safety culture

The majority of accident investigations reveal some sort of human failure preceding the incident. Our response to such findings is usually look at curing the symptoms by adding more procedures or imposing additional training on the seafarers. Does this approach establish a good safety culture?

Many masters admit to having experienced commercial pressure, either explicit or implicit, to undertake operations which may compromise the safety of the ship. In a competitive market, goods must be delivered efficiently and timely, and there will be situations where complying with requests for delivery will risk the safety of the vessel. Research has shown, however, that the understanding and management of these conflicts are more dependent upon the culture of the particular organisation than on any rules or regulations developed to ensure safety.

Conflicts may develop at senior management level because of the perception that resources must be allocated on an "either/or" basis, to what are believed to be conflicting goals: production goals, i.e., delivery of services, and protection goals, i.e., considerations of safe operation (the two P's dilemma).

This week’s poster on safety culture is an invitation to all stakeholders to play their part in evaluating and improving the safety culture in their organisations.

Further information

The below Gard articles provide details on how organisations can improve their safety culture.


Insight: Safety culture - Managing conflicting goals in shipping operation

Insight: Ship safety and high reliability organisations

Loss prevention poster: Safety culture

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