All safety, all the time

Crew training and safety go hand in hand. It’s up to managers to make sure the message is delivered.

What good is an orientation for new employees without regular training and safety follow-ups? Without these reminders, people can develop unsafe habits and shortcuts.

Little things can be very helpful, such as the right shoes, shirts, hats, safety glasses, gloves and harnesses. Make sure they’re in place. Create a daily safety checklist. For example, do you operate skiffs in your daily operations? If so there should be a checklist of all the safety equipment aboard the skiff plus things like gas/oil check, extra lines, tighten cleats, and fire extinguishers. These kinds of checklists should be mandatory at the start of each day for all mobile equipment.

New employees listen to their new bosses, who can create a culture of safety. A large boatyard client of mine ran a spreadsheet on employee injuries over several years and it clearly showed that new employees were most likely to get injured after eight to 10 months on the job. Then there was a dramatic drop in injury rates until after two years, when injuries cropped up again. This was a huge signal that ongoing safety reminders were badly needed. The client started so-called “Tool Box Talks” where weekly reminders were placed in the eating area, on bulletin boards and stapled to paychecks. What happened? Injury rates went down, and employees appreciated the reminders. A culture of safety was created. This is the ultimate win-win situation.

Creating a culture of safety is never about money. Safety reminders or post-injury investigations should not include statements about rising insurance rates or how injuries are costing you money. Employees will completely tune you out at the mention of money. They need to know you care more about their safety than your bottom line. Mentioning costs is not a good safety incentive.

When you spot unsafe behavior, correct it promptly. When there’s an injury, investigate it quickly. Make certain to “fact find’ rather than “fault find.” Keep in mind that you are trying to help your employees, not punish them.

About the author

Gene McKeever

Gene McKeever is a marine insurance agent with Allen Insurance and Financial. He can be reached at

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