Safety First

Iceland Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre

Hilmar Snorrason doesn’t care what you think.

Last December, he attended a Christmas buffet with his family, and as the dinner was set relatively close to home, he suggested they walk. Adorning himself in his most elegant suit, thrusting his toes into his polished dress shoes, Hilmar stepped into the foyer, where, in the eyes of his family, he proceeded to ruin an otherwise fashionable ensemble – with the addition of a bright-yellow safety vest.

“Fashion, to us Icelanders,” Hilmar muses, from inside his office on the ship Sæbjörg on the Reykjavík harbour, “is often synonymous with the colour black, but I’m not going to walk in the dark wearing dark clothes.”

It’s not an unreasonable statement to make – in a country where December affords four hours of daylight – especially not if one is the headmaster of the Maritime Safety and Survival Training Centre.

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No Fatal Accidents at Sea This Year

fishermen fishing

There have been no fatal accidents at sea in Iceland this year, mbl.is reports. As the year 2019 draws to a close, it could be one of a handful of years where no registered Icelandic fishermen have landed in fatal accidents.

The year 2008 was the first in Icelandic history with no fatal accidents among the country’s seafarers. It was soon followed by 2011, 2014, and both of the two years preceding this one: 2017 and 2018. Now the country is close to extending that two-year record to three.

Increased safety on the seas in a result of many factors, one of which is the training provided by the Fishermen’s Accident Prevention School, founded in 1985. Today fishermen in Iceland are required to attend continuing safety education.

Tunnel Worker Death Not a Work-Related Incident

Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel

The Administration of Occupational Health and Safety is seeking further information on a death that took place in Vaðlaheiðargöng tunnel in North Iceland, RÚV reports. The deceased, a man in his sixties who was working in the tunnel as a painter, was found dead on Wednesday in what police determined was not a work-related incident.

Mbl.is first reported the incident, noting that the man, who held Icelandic citizenship, was working in the tunnel’s ‘control room’ at the time of his death, which was sudden. The tunnel was closed for roughly ten minutes to give first responders access to the scene, but Health and Safety was not notified because the police did not think there was justifiable cause for doing so. This is standard procedure: first responders determine whether or not they believe an incident should be further investigated by Health and Safety. In some cases, however, the organization makes an independent request for information, as it has done on this occasion.

Icelandic Police Most Likely to Get Injured at Work

Law enforcement is the profession with the highest rate of workplace accidents in Iceland, RÚV reports. Police officers in the country are 10-12 times more likely to get injured than construction workers. In 2010 police registered 44 workplace accidents per 1,000 employees, while in 2015 the number had jumped to 164 out of 1,000.

Due to the nature of police work, direct oversight of employee safety is impossible to carry out. The Administration of Occupational Safety and Health in Iceland (AOSH) has been in contact with police in Iceland and held a conference last year on the matter.

“The most common accidents among police officers are some sort of blow that occurs more often than not during conflict or attacks from people,” says Guðmundur Kjerúlf, an assistant department director at AOSH. “All attacks are classified as work accidents. Statistics tell us that police officers get injured by far the most often of everyone in the country.”

Frímann Birgir Baldursson, deputy chairman of the Police Federation of Iceland, says the dangerous nature of police work is the reason for the high rate of accidents in the profession. Police officers often get injured when arresting aggressive individuals and also spend a lot of time in traffic, he adds.

In most cases, police officers return to work shortly after an accident occurs, though there are cases of officers taking several months’ leave as a result of injury and leaving the job altogether.