Since March 2020, the marine industry has had many highs and lows. From little or no business, to high levels and too often without enough staff. Staffing in Australia and indeed the world over in most industries is an ongoing major issue.

Whilst the supply of goods by sea and some services has continued throughout the pandemic, we now face staff shortages both on sea and land which makes the working conditions continue to be challenging.

Maritime safety data and research highlight a critical need for the marine industry mental health and wellbeing to be managed more effectively, to achieve better outcomes. Here at Shorlink, we take mental health as serious as safety.

Stress can lead to mental health issues. This newsletter provides information and guidance to provide business owners’ and Masters with strategies to help alleviate the effects of stress.

It also talks about the importance of educating crew about mental health, in order to create a culture on board in which crew are able to identify when their fellow crew members are experiencing poor mental health and support one another.

Educating Crew!

It is important that masters receive adequate education on the psychological impact of stress and mental health issues. Masters need to:

  • have a good knowledge of both the short and long-term consequences of stress
  • ensure crew in their charge have appropriate information and awareness
  • establish prevention and minimisation programs
  • be able to identify crew members having problems
  • initiate the necessary assistance if required—this may include masters and senior crew being instructed in mental health first aid.

Recognise the signs of possible mental health problems!

If a crew member displays any of the following behaviours, they may be experiencing mental health problems:

  • appears to withdraw, isolates themselves, or seems quieter than usual
  • appears distressed
  • agitated or irritable
  • difficulty managing work or workload
  • more argumentative, aggressive or gets into conflicts
  • confused, unusually forgetful or has
  • trouble concentrating
  • behaving in a way that is out of character.

The following are some suggestions which can be used to assist crew members suffering from mental health difficulties:

  • spend time with the person
  • offer your assistance and a listening ear, but do not intrude on that person’s privacy. Be mindful that there may sometimes be deeper problems that underlie the initial problem they mention
  • help them with any practical arrangements they require
  • do not take their emotions personally, as this is probably a part of their reaction
  • do not downplay or dismiss their problems. Do not tell them they are ‘lucky the situation isn’t worse’—they probably don’t feel lucky
  • help them to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as possible. If possible, include them in the activities of others
  • encourage them to be active and involved
  • encourage them to look at what they can manage, rather than just thinking about what they want to avoid.

Managing crew reactions!

After a mental health-related or other stressful event, crew members are often very sensitive to:

  • how others react to them
  • how others may describe the event and the role of the crew member involved,
  • particularly in terms of their reactions to their colleagues.

The extent to which the work/social network validates or invalidates the experience has a very important effect upon the crew members psychological adaptation or recovery.

If all crew are aware of the stressors and their potential impact, the experience of crew members having a mental health issue is more likely to be recognised and validated. If masters are aware of the principles of mental health first aid, crew are more likely to receive appropriate support following mental health issues.

Crews with low morale typically exhibit the highest risk for psychological injuries. This is because strong morale acts as a buffer or protective layer against the effects of mental health issues and other stressors.

This should be factored into decisions that may affect the management of mental health risk.

At regular intervals, the master should schedule the following:

  • An informal debrief—this provides crew with the ability to say how they are going and allows for the reiteration of mental health information and awareness
  • recognition by a valued authority— have someone, like the master, acknowledge the crew and the efforts they have made
  • follow up contact with crew members who may have been identified as likely to suffer mental health issues to see how they are travelling.

Owners and operators need to ensure that the conditions in which their crew work and live do not exacerbate mental health problems.

A crew members ability to access mental health services at sea is limited, hence the incorporation of strategies for mental health interventions is an essential service.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Training staff, from Master to deckhands on mental health first aid is imperative to ensure the business is providing a healthy working environment.

Breaking down the stigma, both on board and ashore, regarding mental health issues. It should be no different than any other injury or illness.

Be alert for potential signs of mental health issues among crew members.

Proactively manage cases of mental health issues, including repatriation if appropriate.

Maintain a fair, just and supportive crew environment, as part of a positive safety culture. Resource poor environment is even more important.

Specific attention is needed in higher risk periods of the work-life cycle, such as during periods of contract extension, operating season and inability to take shore leave.


Tip

It all starts from the top down – both with attitude and education!

Emphasis should be given to training for mental health awareness and resilience. Owners and Masters should be trained in mental health first aid.

If you have any questions, or require assistance with training, please contact our office.

This is important! Please do not hesitate to share this with colleagues, bosses, friends and family.

Fatigue is one of those sneaky things that will creep up on you and often without you realising it until something happens. It’s been a major problem over the years in maritime industries but especially in the commercial fishing sector.

Fatigue Management A silent villain!

Crew members on charter vessels, ferries, water taxis and other passenger/vehicle transport vessels that operate in Australia are usually short voyage operations.

In addition, they usually operate between fixed times and often with crew changes scheduled in during their operating timetables. Crews on construction vessels are usually controlled by legislation in relation to their operating times.

This makes fatigue relatively easy to manage compared to some other sectors, but it can still be a major issue. Crew members and shore-based workers who fail to get adequate rest between working hours are in risk of suffering from fatigue.

Fishing operations such as net fishing or prawn trawling in bay and/or estuary waters are often either day or night operations allowing sufficient rest periods between voyages.

Others such as long liners, line fishing vessels and offshore trawlers operate offshore and may undertake round the clock operations. This is where fatigue management is critical to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.

In shore-based workplaces workers are subject to fatigue as well based on the hours they work, number of shifts and many other factors that often don’t get taken into account.

Things to consider

Your operations will determine how you manage fatigue. Here are a few pointers on what to consider…

  • Do you operate on scheduled times, around the clock or somewhere in-between
  • Crew/worker rosters (where applicable)
  • When developing rosters time taken for each crew member or worker to travel to and from work
  • Time in-between shifts (hours for rest)
  • How many days in a row (e.g., 3 days on 2 days off)
  • What berthing/bedding facilities are onboard (for extended voyages) or in the workplace (for on-site workers; e.g., FIFO)
  • For vessels operating extended hours how rest periods are managed
  • Who manages fatigue levels onboard or in the workplace

This is a starting point of things to consider before jumping into developing your fatigue management programme!

What to identify when assessing fatigue

To properly assess fatigue, you need to take into account two key elements which are:

  1. Standard working hours which includes
  • Total hours worked per day
  • Days worked per week
  • Total hours worked per week
  • Hours between shifts
  • Night shifts
  • Breaks per shift
  1. Additional hours which takes into account:
  • Overtime
  • Extended hours
  • Times you get called back to work
  • Secondary employment

The combination of the above will identify a crew member or workers risk of fatigue and then allow a process to be put in place, where required to minimise the risk.

Calculating fatigue exposure

The risk of fatigue is calculated by undertaking a risk assessment that is designed to identify all the areas that contribute to fatigue.

In general terms risk of fatigue is broken down as follows:

Low Risk is deemed that a person works less than 50 hours per week

Medium Risk is where a person works between 50 – 70 hours per week

High Risk is where a person works more than 70 hours per week

Developing a fatigue management procedure

This procedure can be quite tricky to ensure it’s on target and I always recommend doing a risk assessment on fatigue for your operations before you start.

When developing a fatigue management procedure here’s the key points to take into account…

  • Identify who monitors fatigue onboard or in the workplace
  • Identify who manages breaks onboard or in the workplace
  • For vessels that have crew changes during operations specify start and finish times; or
  • Workplaces that have worker rotation specify start and finish times
  • For vessels or workers operating extended hours when rest periods are to be taken; and
  • a roster for breaks (times when individual crew members are off duty)

The above points provide the basis for developing your fatigue management procedure but remember it is a tricky one to get right.

Remember that fatigue often goes unnoticed until something happens and that could be anything from a minor injury to loss of life or damage to or loss of a vessel or workplace.

So…please take fatigue seriously because it can be and is a killer!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend that you take fatigue seriously and undertake a detailed risk assessment in relation to fatigue.

You can do a group risk assessment where you take into account all crew members or workers who are operating on the same work hours.

Where there are differences in specific crew members or workers hours you need to do a risk assessment on that person or persons.

Tip

When undertaking risk assessments for fatigue our tip is to ensure you cover all aspects of the group or individual crew member or workers hours including total hours worked per week, breaks and the one that most people don’t take into account travel time to and from work.

To get an honest appraisal of a person’s fatigue potential you need to be honest about all their hours both work and rest periods.

If in doubt or you need assistance with fatigue risk assessments don’t hesitate to contact our office because we’re here to help!

We all love a great time on the water, especially during Christmas and New Year. Whether it is commercial or recreational use, time on the water evokes merriment which in turn may lead to a sip, a stubbie or a session of alcohol.

Whether you are an owner, skipper, deckhand, server or cook – when you mix alcohol with your boating activity the consequences can be fatal.

Combine this with the responsibility of your fellow crew and passengers, it is imperative that you take this risk seriously, especially as we come into the festive season when alcohol consumption may be at its highest.

Alcohol consumption combined with the unpredictability of wind, waves and sun – can magnify the effects of alcohol very quickly and affect your judgement and skills.

It is extremely important to understand the alcohol limits and restrictions for each State, which do vary. Please click on the following links for more information:

Queensland : https://www.msq.qld.gov.au/Safety/Alcohol-and-drug-rules

Western Australia: https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/wa/consol_act/wama1982278/

New South Wales: https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/whole/html/2000-04-03/act-1991-080

Victoria : https://transportsafety.vic.gov.au/maritime-safety/recreational-boating/safe-operation/operating-rules/alcohol-and-drugs

South Australia: https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/boating-and-marine/boat-and-marine-safety/boating-safely/alcohol-drugs-and-boating

Northern Territory: https://nt.gov.au/marine/marine-safety

Tasmania: https://www.police.tas.gov.au/services-online/pamphlets-publications/alcohol-and-boats/

Canberra: https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/s/article/boating-on-canberras-lakes-tab-boating-safety

Alcohol Testing on Vessels

Anyone operating a vessel, or a member of the crew, may be required by a police officer to submit an alcohol and or drug screening test.

There are penalties when your blood alcohol limit meets or exceeds the stated allowance detected in the:

  • operator of a vessel
  • members of the crew
  • water-skiers
  • observers
  • those towed in any manner behind a boat.

The penalties can include large fines and/or imprisonment. The court may impose an additional penalty and suspend or cancel a certificate of competency, including a boat operator’s licence.

If you hold a commercial marine qualification and are convicted of a drink driving offence, this information will be provided to AMSA, who may consider whether the person is a fit and proper person to continue to hold that marine qualification.

Did you know that the drivers of vehicles leaving boat ramps, yacht clubs and marina’s can also be prosecuted under the State Driving Acts applicable?

If you are entering the waterways, in any capacity, it is your responsibility to know the rules and ensure yourself, and everyone on the water with you is abiding by the law.

As we now approach one of the busiest times of the year for our industry, this year especially will be demanding given the border openings etc.

When times are busy, you can often become complacent with the little things, especially ‘assuming’ that all staff know not to drink on the job.

This definitely isn’t the case!

Don’t assume!

Now is the time to look at your alcohol policy and ensure all crew understand their responsibilities and their responsibilities to others.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Whilst some states allow blood alcohol limits higher, we recommend that all skippers and crew have a blood alcohol limit of zero as part of their general safety duty. This ensures their full awareness of their environment, and their judgement/skills will not be impaired with alcohol and/or drugs

Also, please ensure to have an open line of communication with your team. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and if staff witness alcohol consumption that is against your policies and/or may endanger safety, they should be encouraged to come forward and understand how the reporting process should be followed.

Tip

Our best tip is to ensure all persons onboard have read, understand and acknowledged the Alcohol Policy within your vessel and/or Company.

To ensure there is no confusion, here at Shorlink, we include with all of our SMS’s – an Onboard Alcohol Policy, Onboard Drug Policy plus Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy.

This ensures that our clients have peace of mind as they have provided their crew with strict policies. Should the need arise, crew can refer back to the SMS and owner’s have this in writing of their direction regarding alcohol.

If you are unsure if you have a Policy in place, please contact our office to discuss further.

Whether you believe it, or not psychological risks exist in every workplace and the maritime industry is no exception.

Before I get into this topic I have to admit that it is one close to my heart as I’ve lost many friends and a few family members to suicide, most of which were in the maritime industry so…please take it seriously!

In maritime there are a number of contributing factors based on what sector you operate in, a few of these you may recognise…

  • extended time away from home
  • adverse (bad) weather
  • poor catch rates for fishing operators
  • increasing closures for commercial operators
  • low prices for fishing operators
  • unhappy and/or complaining passengers
  • increasing restricted zones for charter operators
  • ever increasing governmental requirements
  • marine incidents
  • alcohol/drug abuse

The above list was prior to COVID-19 which has added extra pressers on operators including…

  • potential business failure due to restrictions
  • limited numbers for charter operators
  • crew movement from interstate
  • issues with working between various states
  • further low prices for fishing operator’s

If you think that these issue only affect owner’s you need to think again! Crew members can suffer from these issues which then has the potential to led to psychological distress.

Here’s a few stats from a National Health Survey conducted for the year 2017 to 2018.

  • Around one in eight (13% or 2.4 million) adults experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress
  • One in five (20.1%) or 4.8 million Australians had a mental and behavioural condition
  • 2 million Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition
  • One in ten people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression

Now if you take into account COVID-19 these numbers increase significantly.

Work is a big part of our lives and continually changes. It is in everyone’s interest to understand, to be proactive and to actively support people (this includes crew members) whatever the original cause or trigger.

While most people can recognise they have a problem, be it anxiety, depression or at worst suicidal tendencies they usually fail to seek help.

It’s up to everyone and in particular owners, managers and Masters to be actively involved in addressing mental health issues in the workplace.

The problem is generally due to a lack of understanding, lack of training and lack of support for workers (including crew members) experiencing mental health issues.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be hard and doesn’t always require qualifications or massive programs.

By simply having a work environment where people feel safe to talk about psychological health, to raise things and to have conversations is the key.

Talking about these things helps everyone understand they are not alone, and it can reveal solutions.

Leaders in the field report that a psychologically healthy workplace is where an organisation:

  • Establishes trust and respect amongst its members;
  • Values employee contributions;
  • Communicates regularly with its employees; and
  • Takes employee needs into account when creating new initiatives.

We should also add to this list “good work design” as the way our work is designed affects how we feel about our job and can influence whether we feel motivated, engaged, bored or stressed at work.

When we all share the knowledge, have some skills and abilities to detect signs and symptoms around psychological health and offer the appropriate support everyone benefits including the organisation!

Also note that under Work Health and Safety a business owner/operator has the primary duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, workers and other people are not exposed to psychological health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our primary recommendation is to take the time to understand psychological health, especially if you’re a non-believer as it may save not only someone’s life but also your business. Psychological distress can cause serious workplace accidents which have the potential to cause serious financial and emotional issues for all parties and… they may have been avoided

Take the time to be able to identify the signs of psychological distress and how to initiate a conversation with that person not only for that person but yourself as well!


Tip

If you or someone you know is with or you think they may be suffering from psychological distress including anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts urge them to contact a health professional.

Beyond Blue call 1300 22 46 36
Lifeline: 13 11 14

If you’re unsure about what to do or just need to talk about your situation don’t hesitate to contact Wayne directly on 0423 313 790 as he have considerable experience in this area and is here to help!

While all of us are feeling the impact of the pandemic to some degree many are suffering more than others and it’s those that I would like to dedicate this newsletter too.

 

 

We know tourism operators and commercial fishers have been doing it tough along with all other sectors of the industry and everyone in maritime sympathises with them.

Here’s an insight to the reality for some and also what we’ve been dealing with over the last months:

A client who was also a friend operated in the tourism sector and was solely focused on the international marketplace with a very successful operation. With the onset of Coronavirus his market totally dried up and as a result the business went into bankruptcy.

This left the crew and shore-based staff out of a job. Due to the business failure and having to put off all his staff he suffered a major breakdown and sometime later took his own life. A tragic end to a wonderful person.

Another client whose market was structured around exporting high grade product and whose business has all but closed down as the local (domestic) market is not able to support his product also had a major breakdown.

People asked him why he didn’t simply target the domestic market, but the reality is that the price local people are prepared to pay is significantly less than the overseas market pays. This makes the business unsustainable based on domestic prices.

This became to much for him as he had to lay off all the crew members, process staff and administration employees leading to him attempting suicide but was found in time, luckily!

And more recently, I was advised of another case similar to the one above which adds to the already growing list of people and businesses we are personally aware of.

While tourism numbers have been restricted but are increasing and prices have declined for commercial fishers – we are still able to operate in those sectors unlike some as those outlined above.

I’m asking everyone to just be grateful for the fact that they are still operational, even if not as before due to passenger numbers and seafood prices being down and other impacts of COVID-19.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

If you, or anyone you know is suffering badly due to the current situation please seek professional help immediately as your life is worth much more than your business or vessel.

The Coronavirus has been the cause stress including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and even suicide so please contact your Doctor or call:

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636    or    Lifeline: 13 11 14

Tip

If you’re unsure about what to do or just need to talk about your situation don’t hesitate to contact Wayne directly on 0423 313 790 as us here at Shorlink, are always here to help!

Operators are under pressure like never before and just keeping up with business and operations is hard let alone trying to keep your SMS and  crew training requirements up to date.

We’ve developed a unique range of managed services to take the stress, worry and time involvement away from you and free up your time and focus on what you need to.

Something to remember is…just because you tick the AMSA box doesn’t mean you have the adequate legal protection when you need it most and that’s where we come in.

Our managed service options start with complete management of your SMS and related documentation and allow you to add in other services to provide a comprehensive management plan.

SMS Management

Shorlink’s SMS Management is designed to get your SMS compliant and make sure it stays that way.

The basic service includes:

  • Ensuring all crew and other staff are inducted into your SMS
  • Monitoring AMSA for changes relevant to your vessel and operations
  • Updating your SMS where required and updating the Revisions and Review Log
  • Undertaking Annual Reviews and completing the Revisions and Review Log
  • A review of induction documents
  • A review of training records
  • A review of follow-up documents
  • A review of your vessels Log Book
  • Communications with AMSA where required in relation to your SMS

This is a very cost-efficient service that takes the worry away from you about keeping your SMS up to date and compliant at all times.

Professional Maritime Consultancy

Add a set number of hours for maritime consultancy into your plan to suit your requirements. Clients are using this for specific advice and especially where marine incidents are involved. Include hours relevant to you in your plan and get 10% of the current rate or you can pay as needed and receive a 5% discount.

Safety and Wellbeing Consultant

We are providing a highly recognised service for Safety and Wellbeing that can be linked into your maritime consultancy. We act as an external Safety and Wellbeing Consultant where crew members can contact us for advice and support. This is being recognised as a major incentive by WorkSafe and AMSA for organisations of all sizes.

Emergency Response Training

Include any of our specialised emergency response training services into your plan to take even more stress away from you.

Onboard “vessel specific” training (drills)

Designed to ensure your crew have the practical knowledge and skills to handle onboard emergencies. These sessions include

  • Identification and location of all safety and firefighting equipment and appliances
  • Identification, location and operation of all fuel and air shut offs
  • Location and use of engine room fire suppression systems
  • Launching life rafts or Karley Floats
  • Dealing with onboard emergencies
  • In-water survival techniques

This is a valuable service that takes the worry about training requirements and are they being meet and a service that many of our clients are already using.

Hands on distress flare and fire extinguisher training

We provide hands on training in the use of distress flares and portable fire extinguishers where all participants activate a distress flare and portable fire extinguisher. This is all undertaken under the supervision of one of our experienced maritime trainers.

Shore-based training

Our shore-based training sessions are suited to larger organisations where we can deliver:

  • General safety requirement presentations
  • Detailed group SMS inductions
  • Other training as may be required

Managed Service Options

Our managed services are designed to allow you to develop a plan that suits your specific needs and budget. Contact us today to find out how we can save you time and money.


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Our recommendation is to take your stress, worry and time involvement away from areas that you don’t specialise in and hand them over to Shorlink which will allow you to get down to business.


Tip

Contact us to see just how easy and cost affordable our managed services are in comparison to having to deal with keeping things up to date yourself!

Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried.

While stress and anxious feelings can be a common response, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed or the ‘stressor’ is removed.

Everyone feels anxious from time to time.

When anxious feelings don’t go away, happen without reason or make it hard to cope with daily life, it may be the sign of an anxiety condition.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people will experience anxiety at some stage in their life. There are many ways to help manage anxiety and the sooner people with anxiety get support, the more likely they are to recover.

People in maritime, especially the commercial fishing sector are at high risk of anxiety due to the uncertainty of the industry.  Causes include government regulations, catch rates, weather and of course, the current pandemic adding increased financial pressure.

This can, and often does lead to anxiety for not only the operators but their families as well!

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of an anxiety condition are often not obvious as they develop slowly and given we all experience some anxiety in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is ‘too’ much.

Normal anxiety tends to be limited in time and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a job interview.

The type of anxiety associated with a condition is more frequent or persistent, not always connected to an obvious challenge, and impacts on their quality of life and day-to-day functioning.

While each anxiety condition has its own unique features, there are some common symptoms including:

  • Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
  • Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
  • Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life

These are just some of a number of symptoms that you might experience and are a guide only.  They are not designed to provide a diagnosis, for that, you must see your Doctor.

Types of anxiety

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) Is where a person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things for a period of 6 months or more.

Social anxiety is where a person has an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.

Specific phobias is where a person feels very fearful about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it, for example, having an injection or travelling on a plane. There are many different types of phobias.

Panic disorder is where a person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. If a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have panic disorder.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) This is where a person has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviours or rituals. For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g.  assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms can include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event. PTSD is diagnosed when a person has symptoms for at least a month.

If you are experiencing any of the above, please seek help immediately. Not seeking help can lead to life threatening situations which may be prevented.

 


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Help is there for anyone suffering anxiety.  Although it can be hard to reach out and ask for help, I strongly recommend taking that step because in most cases early intervention can prevent more longer-term effects.

You can always contact Beyond Blue for mental wellbeing support on 1300 224 636 or call me on 0423 313 790 for assistance.

 


Tip

Please note that support from family and friends can make all the difference for someone with anxiety, depression or suicidal feelings. There are lots of things you can do from noticing changes in their behaviour through to practical support to help them recover and manage their condition.