Safety First

Simon Harvey of N2 People Skills looks at the need to change
attitudes towards risk taking and safety management

I remember as a young boy in the 60’s watching a group of adults working on recovering a fishing boat onto a trailer. There seemed to be a lot of confusion when there was a loud crack and a man standing at the head of the trailer simply collapsed.It was as though his legs had been chopped off! The cable had parted, snapped back and broke both of the man’s legs in an instant! That accident made me realise how easily a situation could go from normal to disaster with little to no warning. However, I have to say it did not seem to change my behaviour much in so far as my own level of risk taking.

At 22 I got my first job in the yachting industry driving a Riva Ariston. The main yacht was not big enough to take the Riva aboard and I landed the full time tender driver position. I would take the Riva to St Tropez or Monaco from Cannes, no kill cord, no lifejacket, and not a care in the world. I was living the dream! As I progressed in the industry I got the chance to do my first Atlantic crossing on a large ketch. I was the mate, and at one point (it was blowing force 7 to 8 with blue water across the deck), I was asked to go forward to ease a sheet. I had no lifejacket or harness on and remember, I was quite ‘OK’ getting the job done!

Just as many guys in their 20’s, I thought myself quite cool, and w hile I thought I knew the risks in those situations, I’m fairly sure I didn’t have a true grasp of just how big they were. I was lucky and just how close I was to disaster, or how close those captains were to having to make a call to my family, thankfully we shall never know. The point is it took me years of experience before I finally figured out why I did the things I did, and develop my self-awareness (a conscious knowledge of one’s own character,feelings, motives, and desires) and start to make better decisions.

Today we have tools available to quickly get you this knowledge without waiting for years. We use a group of tools called Everything DiSC that not only helps you build better working relationships, but also helps you understand any situation in new ways with new options. You can quickly explore your strengths and learn what to watch out for, learn how to adapt your style to get best results (stay safe), and avoid misunderstandings as you learn to read the styles of others. Many accidents involving humans get labelled with ‘human error’. Someone forget to flick a switch, did not put something on, or mis-communicated information etc.

We look at the same situation but react differently. Depending on your mental models, personality, and style, you and I will react differently. Knowing how one generally reacts (being self-aware), is something that gives you an edge and allows you time to re-think what it is you are doing. If you observe people at a major pedestrian crossing for example, you will see very different behaviours. Some cross when ‘they’ feel it’s safe, while others wait for that little green man!

I recently had a conversation with the parents of a young man (yacht crew) that lost his life in an accident on the last day of MYS in 2010. William Black was 28, and while we may never know exactly how or why this accident happened, both his family and I believe accidents like this are the very reason why we must take action now to change behaviour across the board, from leadership to general crew.

In 2014/15, I did an unofficial survey by taking pictures of tenders entering and leaving the entrance of the Monaco at MYS. Rarely did my pictures show crew wearing lifejackets or kill cords. In 2016 we continued to see crew in compromising positions in pictures on social media. Crew take risks (as I did), yet still leadership seem unsure of what to do. leadership to general crew.

Over the past few years I have become involved in CHIRP Maritime as an ambassador. CHIRP’s aim is to contribute to the enhancement of maritime safety worldwide, by providing a totally independent confidential (not anonymous), reporting system of near misses.

All crew from captain to deckhand / stew have a responsibility, not only to the crew of the yacht they work on, but for the safety of any crew they see behaving in an unsafe manner. CHIRP maritime offers all an opportunity to all to make a difference here.

I hope we can all make big changes in behaviour in this great industry and start raising levels of self-awareness and understanding better why you do the things you do.