Sharing Lessons Learned for "Safer Seas"
Most cultures use storytelling or “lessons learned” as a teaching opportunity for passing on information gained from experience that is usually intended to keep the learner out of harm’s way. “This is what you never want to do and I am going to tell you why….many years ago, when I was a young …” A good story teller can stir our emotions and activate our senses, creating a lasting memory.
One of the most memorable lessons I experienced early in my career was during a 40 hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) course instructed by a paramedic/firefighter. He shared his personal story of being a first responder to a crime scene, coming home after the event and taking off his blood soaked boots at the front door. Shortly afterwards, he noticed his young child sitting on the floor with his boot in hand inches away from his mouth. Fortunately, he was able to remove the boot in time before the child put his mouth to the blood soaked leather. His lesson on the importance of proper decontamination protocol still resonates with me today. If he would have said “be sure to doff and bag your gear”, it would not have had near the impact. Through his story, he helped me to feel the horror of what could have happened to that child by not using proper decontamination control measures.
In the maritime industry, sea stories, either shared during a “safety moment”, “back aft conversation”, or training session, are very powerful and impactful when communicating and transferring important information. As most of you are aware, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released their annual report of compiled accident investigations entitled, “Safer Seas 2014: Lessons Learned from Marine Accident Investigations".
Part of NTSB’s mission is to determine the probable cause of accidents and issue safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In Chairman Hart’s “Message from the NTSB Chairman”, he states the following about Safer Seas, “It represents our continuing commitment to sharing the lessons that we learn through our investigations. A great number of marine accidents can be prevented when crews know and respond to safety issues early and when crews work together effectively in the event of a crisis.”
In the 2014 version, a summary of safety issues is provided from the NTSB’s investigations to help encourage the sharing of these lessons learned. Below is a snapshot of some of these real sea stories shared.
At least 1 crewmember died and the vessel sank – probable cause was a severe heel to port, followed by immediate down flooding; unfortunately, the reason why the vessel loss stability could not be determined.
2 fatalities, 3 serious injuries and the vessel sank – probable cause was inadequate decision making and safety oversight.
54 million in damages in vessel/dam allision – probable cause was proceeding with the passage during significant risk and probable contributing factor was lack of effective communication between the captain and lockmaster.
By embracing sea stories as a valuable training technique it will not only motivate the learner, and enhance retention of information, but hopefully ensure “Safer Seas” as the NTSB has intended through their annual report. Do you have lessons learned to share? Please share here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.