Safety compliance: carrot or stick?

Rachel White, CEO Secretariat at ICHCA International. Credit: IHS Markit

Penalisation is the among the most effective tools to raise organisational safety compliance, participants at a recent Safety at Sea roundtable agreed.  

IHS Markit data on Port State Control (PSC) inspections presented at the State of Maritime Safety roundtable, showed that while inspections increased by 4%, between the years 2014-2018, the total number of detentions decreased by 20% in the same time period. The event, held at IHS Markit headquarters in London on 23 October, was sponsored by classification society DNV GL and was attended by safety experts from across the maritime and wider transportation industry.

Rachael White, CEO secretariat at cargo-handling NGO ICHCA International agreed with the conclusion drawn from the data and compared the PSC regulatory system to the trucking industry where stringent regulations are being enforced through performance data.  “A lot of focus is being placed on the driver,” White explained. “There is a very high regulatory focus on oversight in terms of hours of service and safety track records of the trucking companies and if they are not complying their licences to operate get swiftly taken away from them”.

Ben Vogel, editor Jane’s Airport Review, also agreed with the conclusion that punitive measures appear to be the most effective drivers of safety in all industries. Commenting from the aviation industry perspective, Vogel noted that reputational damage is another effective ‘stick’ to drive safety, as can be seen through the disappearance of the MH370 plane in Asia, which had a devastating impact on the airline Malaysia Airlines.

Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter, CEO of Coltraco, sounded a cautionary note, stressing that PSCs do not improve all aspects of safety. By way of example, he noted that the dangers of confined spaces have been known for many decades, and safety regulations have been put in place via SOLAS to address the risk, yet this did not produce a ‘magical solution’ that ended seafarer fatalties. ”The only reason why seafarers are still not coming out alive is due to leadership onboard and ship management companies not enforcing use,” Hunter warned.

Other participants noted that some safety behaviours could be more effectively changed through social awareness campaigns and effective marketing. Bridget Hogan, director of publishing and marketing, Nautical Institute drew the analogy that penalising measures such as speed cameras and subsequent fines haven’t improved road safety, and in response Paul Ward, director cyber security Wärtsilä, put forward the example of an effective seatbelt advert which dramatically improved road safety.

IHS Markit will publish its full findings and analysis of contemporary maritime safety data in the State of Maritime Safety report, which will be made available in early 2020.