The Safety Management System (SMS) of a company plays a crucial role for the safety of the seafarers and the avoidance of any potential accidents; Yet, non-commitment from top management positions lead to seafarers doubting the SMS, often resulting to accidents.
Gard states that top management’s commitment when it comes to safety, should be more than signatures on policies and procedures. This means that top management parties must have the right attitude and motivation towards the company’s SMS.
[To remind, a “Safety Management System” is the core requirement for the ISM Code implementation; its aim is to ensure that safety is secured, humans are protected from injury and harm, and the environment and property are not damaged.]
However, sometimes the SMS is overlooked and not followed, leading to accidents.
Thus, Gard questions
Procedural non-compliance is often singled out as the leading cause of accidents. Why is that the case? Were the procedures too cumbersome? Were the procedures too impractical or, perhaps the crew did not believe in the Safety Management System (SMS) and were not motivated to make it work.
It is noted that one possibility of the SMS not being followed, by the crew and other staff ashore, is that the top management’s commitment is not sufficiently visible and apparent. For instance, the QHSE policy of the company may state that “crew safety and protection of the environment are top priorities“, but may not live by it and follow it when it comes to commercial pressures.
Consequently, any deviation from the policy results to doubt in the seafarers’ mind and then impacts the legitimacy of the company’s leadership, sometimes leading to loss of trust in the SMS.
In addition, developing shipboard work procedures without the presence of those that will conduct the work afterwards, leads seafarers to show indifference towards the procedures. It is highlighted that devotion to procedures is based a lot on seafarers’ perception of the practicality, making their presence important.
If the procedures are perceived as impractical, the likelihood of non-compliance is high and audits and inspections may not be able to detect every time the procedures are circumvented.
Overall, the top management should be fully committed towards the company’s SMS, having the ability to respond either positively or negatively to issues related to compliance, keeping in mind that motivation influences seafarers to be compliant.