Study: Half of OSV Crews Would Rather Compromise Safety than Say ‘No’ to Clients

Some 50% of crews working on offshore support vessels are willing to compromise safety rather than say ‘no’ to clients or senior management, a report on workboat and OSV safety commissioned by operations and maintenance management software specialist Helm Operations finds.

The independent report summarize six months of research by Fathom Maritime Intelligence and primary data collection and analysis by Southampton Solent University. It draws on original analysis of Port State Control detention records, feedback from 50 individuals from various off-shore companies, incident case studies, and input from leaders in best practice.

The analysis of the accident and casualty statistics examined almost 6,000 occurrences that were reported during 2011 and 2013 in EU waters or on EU-flagged vessels.

According to the findings, all the respondents said they would feel confident enough to tell others if they felt they were doing something dangerous that may threaten their own or someone else’s life.

“The issue here may relate to a natural response to stop something that is felt to be life threatening; but when it comes to speaking up to seniority, such as clients or higher ranking staff, safety standards may be compromised, particularly if they are not felt to be life threatening,” the report reads.

84% of respondents said that they were backed up by management if they reported an accident, or at least felt that they would be, and 84% also said they believed that the management would successfully respond to any safety concerns they may have.

Conversely however, 78% of respondents believed that commercial pressure could influence the safety of their working practice, the report shows.

64% of respondents believe that some accidents go unreported

“This is perhaps because commercial pressure is something that the majority of respondents felt were outside of their control. This indicated a potential issue between the client and their understanding of setting realistic timeframes for the allocated work to account for good safety to be practiced. This was influenced by making money and saving time. It points to the need for strong communication between the clients and the crew managers to understand what the job entails and to set a safe but realistic time frame against that,” the report said.

However, 64% of respondents believe that some accidents go unreported. One of the main reasons given for this was the threat of repercussions. This was expressed in the survey as discrimination or potential job loss, such as, “Fright of reprisals on reporting” and “could lose your job”.

According to the report, there was a feeling that reporting accidents may lead to an individual being ‘labelled’ as a trouble maker potentially leading to a non-renewal of contract. For example, “I know of a case where a guy would not get onto the crew boat due to no proper gangway, the company H&S man supported him until it was time to come back for another stint, then guess what …. no space on the roster for him!”.

“This suggests that there can be negative implications to acting on safety concerns and even if a job is not lost at the time of reporting the accident, the individual may find that their contract is not renewed,” the report said.

Half of OSV Crews Can't Say 'No' to Clients1

Furthermore, the assessment of occurrences as per vessel category exposed that general cargo vessels were the vessel category the most involved in occurrences. Cargo ships are also the vessel category with the highest rate of casualties and that experiences the greatest number of occurrences according to severity.

In contrast, tugs and offshore support vessels were involved in comparatively few occurrences and recorded far less fatalities and injuries according to the data, suggesting that their safety performance may be superior to that of other vessel categories, such as cargo and passenger vessels.

Port State Control (PSC) data analysis showed that during 2014, general cargo/multi-purpose vessels, bulk carriers and container ships recorded most deficiencies and detentions and offshore support vessels and tugs amongst the least.

According to the data analysed, the vast majority of inspected workboats registered no deficiencies at all or less than 5 deficiencies.

However, when examining on a region-byregion basis the average number of deficiencies per inspected workboat was greater for the Tokyo MOU authorities than for the Paris MOU authorities which could indicate that vessels operating in waters covered by Tokyo MOU authorities display a lower level of safety culture than those operating in waters covered by Paris MOU authorities.

For both regions, the data reflected that most workboat deficiencies and detentions are related to safety culture and crew wellbeing. The report said that improved safety culture, safety management and crew wellbeing would lower the amount of deficiencies and detentions in the workboat sector. Additional recommendations for improvement of the overall situation were effective communication at all levels of an organization, the empowerment of employees, development of feedback systems and mutual trust along with promotion of safety and responsiveness in emergencies.