J.E.P. Burton

Near Miss

In the Maritime Community, I feel there are few honest voices, few open to discussion, few that are willing to see the industry as it is and express their opinion. I want to be among the few that do. No matter if we like it or not our industry is going to be impacted by the future. The revolution that is taking place by the increasing availability of computers, automation and robotics are astounding!
 We the modern mariners have a role to play in it. We don’t need to fear it – we need to embrace it and start improving the integrity and honesty in the industry. Accidents happen, but we need to learn from them, how to prevent them, how to work better!
We need to share our stories of near miss accidents, not to appoint blame but to keep them from becoming real accidents with deaths and injuries to our fellow mariners. Too much is often covered up out of shame. Too many times do near misses get dismissed. Too many times do they fall unreported.
I will share one with you. I almost died.
It was eight years ago. I was the third mate. I was working on a ship where we had just finished discharging grain (wheat and sourgum). We were just getting ready to close the hatch covers. The safety railings were being removed, and I was closing the access hatches. As I was closing one of the access hatches, I was nearly knocked into the hold as it swung shut. Because the railings were being removed they were loose – had I let go of the cover or the access hatch I would have fallen over 80 feet to my death on the tank top that awaited below me.
Like many of the near misses that are around in our industry today – it should have been reported. It should have been shared. Many mariners since then could have fallen from the deck to the tank top waiting below. They could have died.
This lack of sharing stories pervades the maritime culture. So, many of the accidents that occur follow in the tracks of near misses like the one I had all of those years ago. But, no one likes to admit it. That they were wrong, or that they don’t know everything, or that they didn’t evaluate the risks before hand. That they make mistakes.
I have learnt a lot since then, but I still don’t know everything. In fact, now I know that it isn’t possible for me to know everything. I know instead that I will always be learning.
It has been three years since I got my chief mate’s license, and I hope to get my unlimited masters license soon. But I will forever remember the day when as a new third mate I nearly died – and failed to share my story to save and inform others.
I will always be honest about my failings, and I hope you will be too. I want Mariners to move into this new world – where automation is ever present, where we don’t fear the judgment of others.
I have been judged. I have had people tell me that I don’t know anything, that I’m just a girl, that I am too young, that …..
None of what anyone says matters really. Most of them don’t have the courage to face you; they just shout from their corner in the darkness.
Stand with me in the light. Share your stories, your mistakes, your triumphs, own them – they are yours.
Learn, Grow, Explore.
The world is an amazing place full of opportunity and experiences waiting for you.
– Jaquie

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