Safety Culture Report for Human Element Advisory Group

Our Ref: HSR/2/11
Head Office Circular: NP/372/21
4th October 2021
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


Following a meeting between the RMT and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) regarding safety culture and an initiative by the MCA to create a safety tool based on the Health and Safety Executive (HESE)’s Safety Climate Tool, I have provided further written details about how RMT believes safety and a safety culture can be improved within the Maritime sector.

HSE's Safety Climate Tool has been carefully designed by scientists to assess the attitudes of individuals within an organisation towards health and safety issues. It delivers an objective measure of safety culture - the 'way things are done' in an organisation when it comes to health and safety. This is a significant starting point for any organisation to continually improve and raise standards.

Our submission was as follows:

The role of the Safety Representative:

All too often the role of the Safety Representative is a role filled by shipboard management to satisfy the requirements of flag state/ port state inspections with very little, if any, involvement in risk assessments onboard the vessels and very little involvement in safety inspections with the safety officer. The role is usually used to ensure that when the safety committee takes place, on paper it looks as though Safety Representatives are in attendance.

As often as not, Safety Representatives will be heads of department/ leading hands from ratings positions such as bosun, head chef, etc. and not those with a genuine interest in health and safety who may put themselves forward.

There is very little training for Health and Safety Representatives, with many not undertaking any form of training, and when training is provided it is often based around a syllabus of establishing as much information in the event of an accident as opposed to accident prevention. There is currently no training required for Health and Safety representatives and RMT has brought this up at National Maritime Occupational Health and Safety Committee and Maritime Labour Convention Tri-partite Working Group meetings, as we have had companies denying RMT members training at our National Education Centre due to not budgeting for such costs! Any drive to improve a safety culture has to be initiated by a bottom-up approach with a commitment given from the company to listen and not centralise its safety approach from shoreside, and actively involve seafarers. Part of the issue is low crewing numbers and an ability to facilitate time off for Health and Safety Representative duties.

As part of any MCA inspection, RMT believes that key indicators that can be established to determine a safety culture onboard a vessel are:

What training has the Health and Safety Representative received?
What facility time is given to the Health and Safety Representative and where is this documented within hours of rest or other shipboard documentation?

How does the company correspond directly with Health and Safety Representatives on safety matters? Is this done through the master/ safety officer or via Safety Representative structures and specific communication such as emails?

What evidence can be established to identify that a Safety Representative is actively involved on a regular basis with risk assessments, safety inspections and dealing with any safety complaints?

We believe that the above will support RMT’s concerns although we note within the offshore shipping sector there is a slightly more proactive approach to safety given the demands by clients and inspections by various parties prior to commencement of charters and intermittently thereafter.

At its meeting on 28th September 2021, your National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved as follows:

That we note the correspondence on file and all further updates on this union’s working with this body to be placed back before this NEC.

I am acting in accordance with this instruction and will keep you advised of developments.

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary