University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Health and Safety, Risk Assessment and Accidents

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Faculty of Engineering

DESCRIPTION The study-unit draws focus on health and safety issues, risk management and maritime accidents, providing a comprehensive understanding of how to manage and reduce the possibility of calamitous events within the context of maritime engineering.

To start the definition and quantification of risk is defined. Various risk management methods and assessment methods are employed to assess impact and likelihood of risk that ought to lead in providing focus on where risk reduction ought to be prioritised via design, manufacturing and operational changes.

The unit provides a context on the role of Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), grounding the students on the main pillars of Occupational And Health Safety legislation and the various standards that need to be achieved.

The legal framework for maritime accident investigations is delivered in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act, IMO conventions, resolutions on marine casualties and incidents, and EU Commission directives and regulations, taking into consideration the fair treatment of seafarers in the event of an accident.

The essential principles of safety management in the maritime industry are delivered through theory and examples of implementation.

Ship safety, accident statistics, the safety investigation process, human factors and performance in the maritime domain, the contemporary view on human error, accident modelling and the use of the IMO and EU databases, protocols and regulations, such as COLREGs, IMDG and hazardous cargoes and STS transfers are specifically discussed and reinforced with case studies.

Study-unit Aims:

The aim of the study-unit is to provide a comprehensive understanding and expose the learners to various occupational health and safety issues and risks. Moreover, various tools on how to manage and confront risk in a systematic manner within a maritime engineering context are introduced. Equipped with this knowledge, the student is then able to apply the various tools provided to specific case studies to be tackled during the course of the unit.

Safety management, through the implementation of the International Safety Management Code, is an integral part of ship management and encompasses safety culture in terms of the human element. The topic will focus on safety culture and its relation to safety climate. In so doing, the concept of resilience engineering in a safety management system is introduced. Procedural violations and whether seafarers are the cause of accidents or the recipients of failure will be analysed within the context of decision-making in dynamic, complex contexts.

The salient points within the relevant IMO conventions and EU directives, dealing with safety investigations are analysed in detail. The topic will present different philosophies, approaches and frames of mind which the accident safety investigators need to adopt, with the aim of presenting best practices in the field of maritime safety investigation. Accident modelling techniques are delivered theoretically and through practical implementation (case studies) of real accident scenarios investigated by Malta’s Marine Safety Investigation Unit.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- define and score risk, impact and likelihood;
- list the various stages of risk management;
- differentiate between identification, assessment, prioritisation and reduction of risk;
- compute the composite risk index;
- identify the major pillar of the OHSAS 18001 standard;
- differentiate between types of investigation processes and respective legal frameworks;
- describe the complexity of the environment within which the seafarer operates;
- understand ‘safety climate’ and identify how safety should be a company’s core value rather than a priority;
- recognise how failure to adapt and adaptations that fail can lead to an accident;
- discuss how decisions on board a ship and within management companies are not taken in a vacuum, but are systematically connected to the tools and the environment in which the human has limited or no control upon.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- measure in a relative manner a set of risks via the composite risk index;
- apply risk assessment methods through the execution of case studies by compiling a What-IF analysis, FMEA and Fault tree Analysis;
- decide on how to prioritize design and operational focus to minimize risk;
- explain the role of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority;
- interpret the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
- evaluate a design, build or operational context against occupational health and safety standard e.g. OHSAS 18001;
- classify the various forms/types of accidents and the appropriate form of safety investigation;
- implement the legal framework of accident investigations;
- explain the difference between safety culture and safety climate;
- challenge the concept of the traditional vs contemporary view of human error;
- demonstrate the application of accident models through case studies.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Text:

- Risk Assessment: Tools, Techniques, and Their Applications, Lee T. Ostrom, Cheryl A. Wilhelmsen Wiley-Blackwell, 1st Edition (24 July 2012), ISBN-13: 978-0470892039.
- Human Factors in the Maritime Domain, M. R., Grech, T. J., Horberry, & T. Koester, CRC Press (21 April 2008), ISBN-13: 978-1420043419.
- What-You-Look-for-is-What-You-Find - The Consequences of Underlying Accident Models in Eight Accident Investigation Manual, J., Lundberg, C., Rollenhagen, & E. Hollnagel, Safety Science, (2009), 47(10), 1297-1311.
- Human Error, J. Reason, Cambridge University Press (28 Feb. 1991), ISBN-13: 978-0521314190.
- Managing Maintenance Error: A Practical Guide, J. Reason, A. Hobbs, (2003), CRC Press (8 May 2003), ISBN-13: 978-0754615910.

Supplementary Reading:

- Directive 2009/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009, establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector and amending Council Directive 1999/35/EC and Directive 2002/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, EU Commission (2009). Official Journal of the European Union, L131/114. Available from,
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 651/2011 of 05 July 2011 adopting the rules of procedure of the permanent cooperation framework established by Member States in cooperation with the Commission pursuant to Article 10 of Directive 2009/18/EC of the European parliament and of the Council, EU Commission (2011), Official Journal of the European Union, L177/18. Available from,
- Commission Regulation (EU) No 1286/2011 of 09 December 2011. Adopting a common methodology for investigating marine casualties and incidents developed pursuant to Article 5(4) of Directive 2009/18/EC of the European parliament and of the Council, EU Commission (2011), Official Journal of the European Union, L328/36. Available from,

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Ind Study & Ind Online Learning

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Case Study (Take Home) 40%
Case Study (Take Home) 60%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.

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