19 May 2022

Taking it to the top

Engaging with company executives over how their decisions affect employees’ performance further down the line could help improve safety at sea. An 18-month study found investigations of maritime accidents tend to “blame the ship”, often resulting in the punishment of seafarers.  

Authors Barry Kirwan, Ben Wood and Beatrice Bettignies-Thiebaux of Eurocontrol, argue that this approach hampers learning and more attention needs to be paid to contributory factors from higher up the chain. They say that a deeper understanding of organisational influences and how company culture contributes to accidents will help promote safety across the business and better address problems. 

They have developed a ‘Reverse Swiss Cheese Maritime Model’ which moves from organisation through design and fleet support to vessel operations. To facilitate this, they believe there needs to be greater engagement between analysts and the industry’s decision makers and are hoping to trial their approach with several organisations over the next year. Barry, who presented the findings at our recent conference, said: “We need to look not only at how ‘work is done’ but how ‘business is done’.”