When looking into the accidents happening in the engine rooms, the most common root cause identified is the crews failure to identify and mitigate all risks involved with the particular task
As to why this was not done in a proper way, the answer is very often the same – It was regarded as a routine job.
Looking up the word routine gives varies definitions but is most commonly described as tasks carried out frequently with regular intervals and often with a low time consumption. The limited work included has resulted in a very relaxed attitude towards any dangers that might be involved and often regarded as even total risk free – A common misunderstanding which have had severe consequences.
A recent accident involved a 1st engineer who was to lubricate an air condition fan. A job carried out weekly and only takes 5 minutes – A typical routine job. Carried out many times before by the 1st engineer he had become arrogant towards the apparent risks associated with the lubricating point being located only 4 cm from the driving belt of the fan, hence:
- Member procedure not followed
- Fan was not stopped
- Inappropriate large leather working gloves worn
During the work the 1st engineer right glove was caught by the rotating belt resulting in his right little finger together with part of his hand being amputated. He later had to be airlifted to nearest hospital and later repatriated. A quick routine job which due to complete disregard towards its dangers ended in a permanent disability.
WHAT CAN MEMBERS DO?
The ISM code 18.104.22.168 requires members to:
“ASSESS ALL IDENTIFIED RISKS TO ITS SHIPS, PERSONNEL AND THE ENVIRONMENT AND ESTABLISH APPROPRIATE SAFEGUARDS”
This means that Members need to have in place procedures that deal with the assessment of risks for all kinds of work on board – Also the routine regarded ones. This however does not mean that a lot of paper need to be produced for every job. It can and should be kept simple reducing the stress on the crew and ensuring quality assessment instead of quantity.
The Members should ensure that their procedure are clear and to the point on how a member defines a routine job, and the appropriate risk precautions to be taken for these. A definition could be all jobs carried out with intervals of 7 days or less and under normal circumstances require no more than one manhour.
As the amount of routine jobs that can be identified in the engine room daily is substantial it is important that the risk assessment for these kind of jobs are kept simple and where possible generic. Requiring a Risk Assessment is not the same as a new one has to be produced every single time, it is perfectly ok to reuse old ones. The important thing is it is reviewed so all involved are fully aware of the potential risks. Any new risk identified should be amended and sufficiently mitigated. Some of the ways the assessment can be conducted by in an easy way:
- Toolbox talks discussing the daily work and risks associated
- Include the associated risks as part of the PMS job description
- A generic routine job checklist
Respecting all jobs equally, whether they are large or small routine or non-routine, when it comes to the risks involved is a key stone in a healthy safety culture onboard – And it only need to take a minute so NO accidents remains a routine as well.