National Workboat Association analyzes accountability for maritime accidents

A workshop will be held next week by the National Workboat Association (NWA), the trade, skills and safety standards association for the workboat industry. The session, entitled “Balancing Safety and Accountability” will bring together representatives from UK and European workboat operators, alongside leading safety experts, to discuss new mechanisms for creating a ‘just culture’ within maritime organisations.

The Association said that, while major accidents in the maritime sector were now few and far between, when they did occur, they often highlighted insufficiencies in the way safety issues were managed across the industry.

The association said that reactive and proactive measures, such as incident investigation and seeking non-conformance with procedures and regulations, had “lost momentum as a means of managing and controlling risks”.

It went further and asserted that safety management systems, originally designed to bring structure and clarity to these processes, “may become counterproductive, by posing an obstacle when it comes to driving improvements”.

The association noted, for example, that, when accidents happened, shore-based management teams commonly invoked the failure of front-end personnel to adhere to safety procedure, without taking the time to properly investigate and understand the circumstances.

Oessur Hilduberg, head of the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board and Nippin Anand, a safety specialist in the maritime industry, will lead the NWA Safety Workshop, providing an opportunity for representatives from all maritime management disciplines – from Masters and Superintendents to shore-based management and HSE managers – to discuss and develop new ways of thinking about incident investigation and analysis.

“When something goes wrong, it can be convenient to swiftly assign blame to somebody who was not following procedure,” said Anand, adding that “in many organisations, the infrastructure and knowledge to facilitate an understanding of alternative perspectives simply isn’t in place. However, in order to drive standards, we must collectively start to appreciate that ‘following the procedures’ is not always as simple as it sounds on paper.”

The ‘Balancing Safety and Accountability’ Safety Workshop is an exclusive event for NWA members, taking place in Manchester on 22nd March 2017. For more information, and details about membership of the NWA, please contact [email protected].