Exploring Risk Management

By LTJG Kate Harrell

It’s always an exciting time when you arrive to a new ship – meeting new shipmates, learning about the ship, and exploring all the passageways and nooks of the place you will call home while underway. Although exploring can be fun, we should always remember that there is an inherent risk with anything that we do onboard a ship, and we should always manage the risk associated with those activities.

was my third day on a ship, everything was new; all the passageways and hatches looked the same to me. I had memorized the route from my stateroom to the ready room. From the ready room, I knew how to find the galley, the hangar bay, and my work center. In the first two days of my arrival, other officers had taken me on tours of the ship; I’d seen the mess decks, the cashier’s office, medical, and the gyms. I knew how spaces were numbered and understood that I should be able to find my way back to my stateroom, but I had already gotten lost in the maze of the ship a few times. Each time I got lost, I would wander around hoping to come across some recognizable landmark from my previous tours. After losing my way several time, I made the decision to stick to only the routes I had already learned for at least for a few days. Until I got my bearings, even if this meant leaving my stateroom, going upstairs to the ready room, and then proceeding back down two ladderwells to get to the hangar bay.

next night, as I went to take the ladderwell from the ready room down to my stateroom, I felt a drip from the pipes above. Looking down I realized the top stairs were wet. My adherence to the plan I had made — I don’t know another way back to my room, I’ll have to take this way —made me override my good judgement. As I climbed the ladderwell I thought, “Oh, this could be dangerous … maybe I should take another ladderwell.” No sooner had this thought entered my mind when I lost my footing on wet treads and slid down the stairs. My left pinkie got tangled in the crossbar of the handrail, causing my fifth metatarsal (my pinkie hand bone) to break. The space of time between when I realized the ladderwell was treacherous and when I began slipping was fast, just a second or two.

I remember clearly comprehending the danger and ignoring it; a decision that was needlessly risky. I was not in a rush, there were certainly plenty of other routes I could have used, and I could have asked someone for help or notified someone about the hazard. I put adherence to my plan over my own safety and spent the rest of the underway in a cast.

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