Mastering Risk Assessment in Operations - Important to Know
What is a risk assessment?
The definition of a risk assessment is a systematic process of identifying hazards and evaluating any associated risks within a workplace, then implementing reasonable control measures to remove or reduce them.
When completing a risk assessment, it is important to clearly define some keywords:
An accident is ‘an unplanned event that results in loss’
A hazard is ‘something that has the potential to cause harm’
A risk is ‘the likelihood and the severity of a negative occurrence (injury, ill-health, damage, loss) resulting from a hazard.’
Risk assessments are critical for ensuring the safety of vessels and their operations, whether they are ships, boats, or any other type of watercraft. Conducting thorough risk assessments helps identify potential hazards, assess their potential consequences, and implement appropriate measures to mitigate or eliminate those risks. Here are some key steps for performing risk assessments on vessels:
Identify Hazards: Begin by identifying all potential hazards which could pose a risk for the vessel, its crew, passengers, and the environment. For these hazards we could include mechanical failures, adverse weather conditions, navigational challenges, fire, collision, human error, and other one.
Likelihood Assessment: Evaluate the likelihood of each hazard occurring. Involves considering factors such as historical data, weather forecasts, equipment reliability, and crew experience.
Prioritize Risks: Focus on addressing the highest risks first, as they pose the greatest potential for harm.
Monitoring and Review: Continuously monitor the effectiveness of the mitigation measures and review the risk assessment periodically. New hazards may emerge, and the effectiveness of existing measures may change over time.
Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that the vessel and its operations comply with relevant maritime regulations and standards. Many regulatory bodies require vessels to have risk assessment processes in place.
Emergency Preparedness: Develop comprehensive emergency response plans for different scenarios, including accidents, fires, oil spills, and medical emergencies. Conduct regular drills to ensure that the crew is well-prepared to respond effectively.
Communication: Maintain open communication among the crew and relevant stakeholders about potential risks, safety procedures, and emergency protocols.
Crew Training: Train the crew on safety protocols, risk mitigation strategies, and emergency response procedures. Well-trained crew members are essential for preventing and managing risks effectively.
Record Keeping: Maintain thorough records of risk assessments, mitigation measures, and any incidents that occur. This documentation can be valuable for future reference and demonstrating compliance with regulations.
The main purpose of risk assessments are:
- To identify health and safety hazards and evaluate the risks presented within the workplace.
- To evaluate the effectiveness and suitability of existing control measures.
- To ensure additional controls (including procedural) are implemented wherever the remaining risk is considered to be anything other than low.
- To prioritise further resources if needed .
It can be a costly lesson for a shipowner and seafarers if they fail to have necessary controls in place.
Carrying out risk assessments on a vessel is a shared responsibility that involves various individuals within the maritime industry. The specific responsibilities may vary depending on the type of vessel, its purpose, and the organizational structure of the maritime operation.
Here are some individuals involved in conducting risk assessments on a vessel:
Ship Owner/Operator: The shipowner or operator holds overall responsibility for the vessel's safety and compliance with regulations. They are typically responsible for ensuring that risk assessments are conducted and appropriate mitigation measures are implemented.
Master/Captain: The master or captain of the vessel plays a crucial role in assessing risks and making operational decisions to ensure the safety of the vessel and its crew. They have an in-depth understanding of the vessel's capabilities and limitations, as well as the operational environment.
Designated Safety Officer: Some vessels have a designated safety officer who is responsible for overseeing safety protocols, conducting risk assessments, and ensuring compliance with safety regulations. This role may be separate from the captain's responsibilities.
Chief Mate/Chief Officer: In larger vessels, the chief mate or chief officer may be responsible for safety-related tasks, including risk assessments, safety drills, and emergency response coordination.
Crew Members: All crew members have a role to play in identifying and reporting potential hazards, following safety procedures, and participating in safety drills and training.
Maritime Regulatory Authorities: Depending on the jurisdiction, maritime regulatory authorities may require vessels to conduct risk assessments as part of their compliance with safety and environmental regulations. These authorities may review and approve risk assessment processes and procedures.
Safety Consultants: In some cases, maritime companies may seek the expertise of safety consultants or risk assessment experts to conduct specialized assessments or provide guidance on safety measures.
Cargo Vessels: Cargo vessels may have specific risk assessments related to the handling and transportation of hazardous materials, cargo securing, and stability.
Pilots and Navigators: Pilots and navigators provide expert navigation assistance when vessels enter and leave ports or navigate through challenging waters. They contribute to risk assessments by providing insights into navigational challenges and local conditions.
Ultimately, the responsibility for conducting risk assessments on a vessel is a collaborative effort that involves various stakeholders working together to ensure the safety of the vessel, its crew, passengers, and the environment.