PSS in 2020

Published: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 - 06:58

In our recent 2019 Accident Stats Report, we demonstrated that health and safety in the industry is in a much better place today then it was twenty years ago. The ability of the sector to come together and collaborate on matters of employee welfare has significantly reduced the chances of accidents occurring. Despite this considerable progress, accidents have plateaued in recent years, and more effort needs to be devoted to overcoming this problem in 2021. As David Brown said yesterday, there is no single panacea to reducing accidents. However, as Chief Executive Richard Steele explains, PSS has been developing a variety of tools to tackle the problem of health and safety and eventually overcome the plateau.



Strengthen the Skills and Safety achievements of our industry; provide active leadership and engagement on Culture, Health and Mental Health.  This has been the mission for the last three and a half years.  Drawn directly from one to one conversations with industry leaders, tested and re-played to the sector to ensure that it remains vital and relevant. Waypoints

The way-points are clear.  Get the industry off its accident plateau.  Create proactive learning relationships with our regulators.  Share information that can save lives and prevent harm; learn fast and learn once. Improve what we know about risks in our industry and turn that into intelligence that prevents accidents.  Grow an all-industry culture where every single person in every single port is a safety champion.  Show leadership by stretching our thinking; providing new perspectives and creating space to see differently.


Since 2000, statutory reportable accidents have reduced by over 60%.  The industry has become safer, but nobody thinks that the job is done.  Despite huge progress, our industry is on a plateau.  The rate of change has slowed.  As with many things in life, the better you get the harder it is to improve.  Ports must keep firm pressure on core safety and skills.  They are the prerequisites for further improvement but are not enough to achieve zero harm.  You cannot ‘procedure-out’ or ‘train-out’ all accidents.

To attack the remaining %, the sector is also focusing on human factors, values and behaviours, seeking to understand why people do what they do and how to create workplaces that actively promote a positive health and safety culture through leadership, engagement and empowerment.

Whole PersonZero harm organisations accentuate the positive’, proactively anticipating events and empowering people to act as problem solvers and allies in successful, sustainable workplaces. This requires new thinking, language and measures of success.  Ports are incorporating positive indicators to promote better ways to work and learning from doing things right. 

Ports are working to address physical and mental health as a sector.  Across the whole of UK industry, occupational ill health leads to far more deaths and time lost than workplace accidents.  People experiencing ill health (physical and mental) are also likely to be at greater risk of accidents.   Through sharing information across ports, we are starting to measure how healthy our industry is, which will help us to achieve even more positive change.   The industry has created, communicated and begun delivering a ‘whole person’ approach, addressing Core Safety, Skills, Culture, Health and Mental health together which is essential to achieve zero harm.

Immediate Challenge

HSE has fully engaged with us on prevention and has acknowledged the genuine positive work by the industry: • promoting health and safety as a value, not to be used for competitive advantage • sharing good practice, alerts and lessons and • pioneering work Ports, HSE and Unite have done together on Safety in Ports guidance. 

18 months ago, the HSE view was that ports were not in need of any special attention.  Our longer-term relationship with them and delivery of our promises enabled HSE to compare ports performance favourably against some other sectors.   It held up the possibility of new ways of working together to prevent injury.  That offer was very welcome and reflected the relationship that Ports have achieved by action.  However, in 2019 the wider ports industry, including marine and tenant operations gave rise to a significant number of work-related fatalities, with a further port fatality in 2020.  This pointed a spotlight on our industry and reinforced the core message.  Stopping preventable port fatalities must be the priority for ports and for PSS.  The only acceptable KPI is zero. 


Reporting to the Regulator

HSE will always retain clear distance in its regulatory role, addressing accidents according to their duties.  Our role here, is to work with the HSE at a sector level to help deliver prevention.  We have set out a voluntary programme of work in response to the fatalities.  I have reported progress to HSE periodically since and we remain committed to follow through on our promises, COVID19 notwithstanding. 


Work Delivered

In recent months, we have delivered real support the industry whilst also laying groundwork for what is to come.


Safety in Ports Impact Survey

Introduced at the beginning of 2020 and now into its second round, we are working with volunteer members to look at real workplaces.  To benchmark and learn, spotlight best practice and to help ensure that work as imagined in procedures and guidance equals the way that work is actually done on the ground.  Round 1 visited eight different UK port organisations.  It showed 93% average compliance with Safety in Ports (SiPs) guidance documents and brought to light 32 practical examples of good practice ideas.  Round 2 is underway with an equal number of volunteer organisations.  This is grass roots industry self-help, combining a fresh perspective and a shared commitment to member continuous improvement. 


Port Health and Safety Culture Survey

We are reaching the home straight in our partnership development of a bespoke safety climate survey tool with University of Bath.  This is the first of its kind; made by ports, for ports.  It will allow organisations to capture the opinions of individual employees; to understand how workforces see their safety cultures and to understand the values that are important to them.  Through this, ports will be able to benchmark themselves against the wider industry and make plans to engage and support and crucially be able to evidence positive change.


7 Leading Principles of Safety in RoRo Operations

In direct response to the tragic RoRo fatality at the beginning of the year, we led a workshop of senior operators and ports.  Introducing a new approach, appreciative enquiry, we ensured that there was both a strict through-line of practical learning whilst also setting the groundworks for future use of the technique.  The practical outcome of the work was a set of seven leading principles, a video and a poster, which were shared widely throughout the industry.


Covid Gazetteer

As recent announcements continue to show, action in the face of the pandemic has to be dynamic and responsive to change.  The luxury of developing drawn out guidance when ports had to remain operational from day 1 was not something that we could afford.  We developed a gazetteer – a road map of links to existing sources of guidance and information, placing this within a framework and providing sample template risk assessments.  Co-developed with the Department for Transport, the gazetteer also incorporated the variation in all four Nations’ guidance.


The Good Practise Guide to Building Effective H&S Culture

Many ports have taken action to develop and enhance their safety cultures.  Starting from the principle of ‘what has worked?’ we canvassed our members and created a model and examples of culture building based on collective experience of what has practically worked across the sector.


Building on Success - New Opportunities

Our existing priorities remain valid, but there are additional strategic themes that will help to stop preventable port fatalities, add more value to members, extend our audience, enhance communications and drive accountability.  Members will already have seen the expansion of our work around industry self-assurance and have heard the exciting developments on the new PSS Board which incorporates knowledge and expertise from within and outside of the sector.  There is more to come before the year is out and beyond into 2021.  We can only deliver improvement as a sector by working together.  Please keep watching our horizon and we look forward to making ports safer together!