Lessons in communication easy to catch for Northern Prawn Fishery 07 Oct 2016

A pilot program designed to encourage members of the fishing industry to improve safety at sea through better communication has caught on in far north Queensland.

Eighty crew members have taken part in the cognitive-based safety program – ‘High Performing & Safe Teams’. It aims to reduce deaths and injuries in the workplace by changing the way leaders communicate with their peers.

The program is run by Sentis and funded by the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) in collaboration with NPF Industry Pty Ltd, the representative body for operators in the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF).

It’s the first time that the psychology-based Sentis safety program has been applied in the marine sector.

Following the initial training in July 2015, safety attitudes and actions were monitored over a 12-month period, and prior to the tiger prawn season resuming in August this year, Sentis ran a refresher course with trawler captains.

Skipper of the ‘Gulf Bounty’, Arron Jones, said the program has given him the tools to better communicate with his crew to ensure their well-being during months of high-stress work.

"The program has made a difference to the people in the fishery in the way they manage crew and the way the crew manage themselves too," he said.

"As a skipper you know what you need your crew to do, but being able to communicate that and make sure daily tasks are completed on time and safely, is an area the Sentis training has helped us with."

Mr Jones said the simple act of thinking before you speak has helped to encourage a cultural shift.

"Since doing the first course last year I’ve found I’ve got a lot better responses and a lot better work out of my crew since applying some of the communication tips on a daily basis," he said.

PIHSP R&D Advisory Panel Chair, Gordon Gregory, said the promising feedback from the Sentis ‘High Performing & Safe Teams Program’ could be the catalyst for a change in the way other industries embrace safety in the workplace.

"The marine sector remains one of the most dangerous workplaces, losing more than 800 working weeks to injury for every 1,000 employees over the period 2008/9 to 2011/12," he said.

"The response and changes in behaviour the program has encouraged in the fishing industry indicates it could also be applied to the farming, fishing and forestry sectors."

The goal of the Partnership is to improve the health and safety of workers and their families in farming industries across Australia. It is funded by the Cotton, Grains and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations, as well as the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia. For more information about the partnership, visit

The Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) is funded by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC), Cotton Research & Development Corporation (CRDC), Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC), Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC). The PIHSP aims to drive sustainable improvements to work health and safety outcomes in agriculture, forestry and fishing through investment in RD&E.