‘Just culture’ at DFDS

A few months ago, we invited staff working on vessels, and at terminals and warehouses to participate in a safety survey. The response rate was overwhelming, and we cannot thank the colleagues who took the time to complete the survey enough. The input is invaluable.

We haven’t finished processing and analysing all the data yet, but one extremely important thing leapt out. Apparently, not all colleagues are fully familiar with the term ‘no-blame culture’ or ‘just culture’ and what this culture implies. Some industries use the term ‘no blame’ while others use the more up-to-date term ‘just culture’, but it is basically the same.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has defined a ‘just culture’ in their circular (MSC-MEPC.7/Circ.7 – Guidance on Near-Miss Reporting):

A ‘just culture’ features an atmosphere of responsible behaviour and trust whereby people are encouraged to provide essential safety-related information without fear of retribution. However, a distinction is drawn between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Unacceptable behaviour will not necessarily receive a guarantee that a person will not face consequences.

If you want to read the IMO circular, you can find it here

‘Just culture’ at DFDS
DFDS has of course also implemented a ‘just culture’. It is described in our Safety Management System (SMS) for our vessels in the Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) Policy. It is signed by CEO Torben Carlsen. If you happen to visit DFDS House in Copenhagen, you can actually see the HSE policy posted in the lobby just after the reception desk.

The Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) Policy

It is crucial that everyone at DFDS knows that no person should fear reprisals or punitive action for reporting a near-miss to the company.

We must all embrace a true ‘just culture’ so people feel safe and encouraged to report safety-related incidents, near-miss reports etc., so that we can improve the safety level at DFDS and share all the important lessons learnt. For those of you who have access to our SMS, you can read more about this in SMS documents 2.1.0 and 9.1.1.

If for some reason you want to report an incident anonymously, there are several ways to do that. We will inform more about that shortly.

External inspiration
Some of you may be familiar with the safety guru Sidney Dekker, who has made some very good speeches about ‘just culture’.
Click on the links to hear him.

Sidney Dekker on Just Culture

Sidney Dekker Just Culture | The Movie


BU Med launches Safety First

As shown in the video last week, BU Med launched the “Safety First” programme in late July, which will be implemented in all departments and locations.

The main target of the Safety Programme is to ensure the safety of employees, to increase awareness and to improve the existing Occupational Health & Safety System by engaging all our colleagues and the supplier/subcontractor employees with whom we work.

The steps in this programme are as follows:

  • “Safety First” meetings have started for all colleagues
  • The DFDS Safety Guide has been distributed
  • “Safety First” posters at terminals, on board ships and in related areas
  • The Health & Safety team continues to provide information about how to implement the Safety First programme, and how to report accident/incident/near-miss situations
  • Setting up a “Security Incident Reporting System”, with “SIRS” posters, ensuring that all employees can report incidents easily.

Özge Süalp Altun, Head of Health & Safety Environment at BU Med, says: “Although we already have a health and safety system, we know that health and safety need to be continuously improved. Safety is not only the job of health and safety specialists: it involves all employees, and I think we will maximize awareness of safety at DFDS with this company-wide Safety First project. This programme will support us in making this work more efficient by setting the standard in all locations and business units at DFDS. I believe that awareness will increase as the information is shared.”

Safety First: Local programs take off

Too many serious accidents took safety to the very top of the agenda at DFDS, and despite the coronavirus situation, the Safety First program was launched in April.

Campaign posters, online meetings, a safety booklet and a safety survey were among the many initiatives, and now local programs are being kicked-off.

Images from local kick-offs on vessels, terminals and warehouses have been sent to the Safety First inbox, and we have gathered all the great images in a short video.

“You will probably notice how the King Seaways crew were touched by a presentation that Captain Ingimar Tór Thomsen held about the incident on the vessel Seatruck Progress. Two of the King Seaways crew members knew the officer involved in the tragic accident,” says Michael Stig.

Next steps

Jesper Hartvig Nielsen says: “We have now completed the safety reporting tool which keeps track of accidents for shore side. The safety reporting tool for the ship side was already in place.”

“More initiatives will be launched from our side. The results from the safety surveys are still being processed, and we hope to have all done and ready shortly, so we can move forward with the findings from the surveys. Once again a big thank you to all of you who took the time to participate in the survey.”

“We would also like to thank all the local managements and staff for their high commitment in the program. Without their big help and involvement we cannot succeed. And as always, please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions, input or ideas,” Michael adds.

You can contact the Safety First program team on

Today 25 June is the Day of the Seafarer

For the past 10 years, IMO (International Maritime Organization) has encouraged to celebrate the seafarers all around the world on 25 June. This year they deserve the praise more than ever.

Michael Stig, Designated Person, Marine Standards, says: “During the corona crisis, seafarers have been playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods such as food and medical supplies, and it has indeed been a difficult time for them. Many seafarers have been away from home for months and don’t even know when they will be able to get home due to travel restrictions.”

Being a caring employer is one of the two main themes of DFDS’ CSR strategy, and in tune with this Michael Stig and Jesper Hartvig Nielsen recently kicked off the Safety First programme that intends to increase safety for seafarers and staff working on terminals.

“Being a seafarer can be a difficult and from time to time risky job. Let’s all send kind thoughts to all seafarers throughout the world today and acknowledge their sacrifices and the vital role they play in keeping the world trade moving,” says Michael.

Watch this video with the general secretary of IMO and learn more about the Day of the Seafarer.


Another day at work

We received this video from the Esbjerg Terminal, and though it isn’t operated by DFDS, it provides a very interesting view into the work of a tugmaster driver. Watch the video and see the operation from the viewpoint of the driver.

A big thank you to the staff at Esbjerg Terminal for participating in the video, and to Michael Stig and Jesper Hartvig Nielsen for providing footage and information.

Safety survey for employees working at warehouses

A few weeks ago, we launched a safety survey for employees working on terminals and vessels, now a similar survey for employees working in the warehouses has been launched.

The survey is completely anonymous so there is no risk for you. We cannot see name or email of the respondents, and the results will not be used to blame anyone. It will only be used to improve safety.

You will receive an email
It is an online questionnaire, and if you work in one of the warehouses, you will receive an email with a link to the survey from crewing or HR very soon. Please complete the survey and help us make daily work more safe for the sake of you as well as your family.
You can also find a link to the survey on the bottom of the Safety First site.

We will also take the opportunity to thank the many colleagues who have responded to the safety survey for vessels and terminals. The response rate is impressingly high, and your answers are of great value for our common project to improve safety. If you have not completed the survey yet, please do it now as we close this survey on Tuesday 9 June.

We hope to see the same high commitment and response rate for the warehouse survey.

Jesper Hartvig Nielsen and Michael Stig

Survey to kick-off safety programme

Everyone working with freight operations on ships and at terminals will receive a questionnaire on safety standards in their workplace. The answers will be used as a basis for the programme that aims to make cargo operations safer. The survey is anonymous and will be sent to you via email from local HR or crewing from today.

As we wrote recently, we have experienced tragic fatalities in cargo operations at DFDS in recent months. “This is completely unacceptable, and therefore, we are now launching a programme to improve safety during cargo operations at terminals and onboard our ships,” says Torben Carlsen

The safety programme is managed by Michael Stig, Designated Person, for on-board safety, and by Jesper Hartvig Nielsen, Fleet Management, for safety ashore. They are now kicking off the programme with a safety survey.

Your opinion and ideas
Michael and Jesper say: “To start work, we really need the opinion and ideas of you who work with cargo operations at DFDS. Therefore, we have developed a survey, which we kindly ask everyone working at terminals or on board our ships to complete. This will help us understand better how we currently work with safety at DFDS, and how we can improve the safety for you and your colleagues.”

“There is no risk for you. The survey is completely anonymous. We cannot see name or email of the respondents, and the results will not be used to blame anyone. It will be used only to improve safety

You receive it via email
It is an online questionnaire, and you will receive a link to it in an email from crewing or HR today or soon after. Please complete it and help us make daily work more safe for the sake of you as well as your family.

You can also find the survey on the bottom of the Safety First site.