Last week I made the point that assumptions should not be made on the ability of crews based on nationality, this week consider assumptions made on experience. Knowledge gained through experience is obviously valuable to employers, the crewman with years of experience is more likely to be employed than the newcomer with the required certificates of competency for the job.

Experience is not infallible however, as the IAGC guidelines on Small boat competency states:  Over a period of time competency can deteriorate due to less exposure to the skill, stepping out of recognised procedures or the formation of bad habits, each company should ensure competency is maintained by carrying out periodic evaluation and refresher training on its small-boat crews.   Refresher training and/or evaluations can be carried out onboard or a training establishment.

People with experience working in high risk operations are more likely to under estimate the risks posed in operations they have become familiar with over a long period of time. The advantage the experienced crewman has comes when the likelihood of an incident occurring becomes high that the gut feeling or” unconscious knowledge”, kicks in and a potential incident can be avoided. 9 times out of 10 this is what happens it’s the 10th time where the problem starts.

Assuming a crew is competent to carry out boat operations due to previous experience is not best practice. Refresher training at training establishments meets the requirement by law however deals more with the minimum requirements than the real substance and requirements of the actual workplace.

Training and auditing on board removes the need for making assumptions of competence based on nationality or experience. The advantage to the employer is qualitative as well as quantitative knowledge of crew capabilities and areas for improvement. Employees gain confidence in their equipment and boat crews by seeing assessment done in the workplace, not at a distance or in theory.