Jaco Sluijmers is operations manager & salvage master in Houston. With almost forty years of work experience, he knows how important teamwork is for safety.
“When you step on board a burning ship, standard safety instructions are meaningless. Your primal instinct comes to the surface and you work through your own list, but what we ALWAYS do is keep an eye on each other. That is why it is important for us to form a close-knit team where we work together regardless of ranks or positions.”
How do you build a close-knit team?
“I keep an eye on everyone: Is someone becoming isolated? Who are the loudmouths? Who are forming cliques? I keep it relaxed, because a good atmosphere comes first for me. In this way, I work on building my team and safety awareness. Most of the people in our teams are experienced. For them, half a word is enough. But we always take inexperienced guys with us too. For them, we say everything we are doing or going to do, which teaches them why we do things the way we do. That understanding is important, firstly for your own safety, and also for the bigger picture: good safety statistics are increasingly a condition for a project to be awarded.”
Several parties are involved in every job: your own team, the office, the client. Jaco sees them as circles: “When they work separately from each other, project partners can grow apart. That is why I strive to have these circles overlap. Only then you get the project to run smoothly.
What do you need in order to do this?
“Interest: you have to be willing to get to know the other’s (safety) culture. And communication: you always have to make sure that everyone is aware of what is happening and why. The atmosphere is also important for this: everyone has to feel free to have their say. Looking back, I don’t think we always found the common ground in the time before NINA. This had repercussions for safety: I saw accidents that could not happen now, because now we make agreements about many more things. That’s why I’m happy with the instruments that NINA has to support this, such as the Start-Up and safety toolbox meetings.”