A Poem About Safety and Regrets Dedicated to Seafarers

by | Last updated Nov 24, 2023 | Seaman's Life | 0 comments

I first heard a poem about safety when I attended the annual conference of the shipping company where I worked with. The superintendent reciting this piece was well-versed and passionate. This made an impact to me and the way I work on board.

Safety on board our vessel is paramount. Each of us is responsible for our own safety and our crewmates as well. When bad things happen on board, our resources are limited and the person could suffer a lot. We conduct drills and exercises with external parties to improve our safety culture and awareness but the final choice is always to us.

Here’s a poem from Don Merrell about regrets on disregarding safety. I first heard this last 2009, the first four lines got immediately chiseled in my head.

Hope this poem will change your attitude towards safety.

Seafarers working aloft greasing the crane wires of a general cargo vessel.
Safety at work is everyone’s responsibility.

I Chose to Look The Other Way

Don Merrell

I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care,
I had the time, and I was there.

But I didn’t want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before,
If I spoke up, he might get sore.

The chances didn’t seem that bad,
I’d done the same, He knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked on by,
He knew the risks as well as I.

He took the chance, I closed an eye,
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.

Now every time I see his wife,
I’ll know, I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear,
But it isn’t something you need share.

If you see a risk that others take,
That puts their health or life at stake.
The question asked, or thing you say,
Could help them live another day.

If you see a risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say,
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose, to look the other way.

(Email: donmerrell@hotmail.com)

Why This Poem About Safety is Hitting Hard

The first four lines is already enough to get your attention but the rest of the poem still hit hard. Even though I first saw this during the start of my career, I was still “on track” with what he’s narrating! Luckily, the unfortunate part didn’t happen in my watch. But there were some near misses.

When you start on the lower rank, opening a safety matter while on the job is sometimes frowned upon especially when there are time constraints. Fortunately, I worked with the best crew on board who values “Time out for Safety” whoever raises that flag.

But when I switched to other companies, safety becomes tertiary while budget and work stands on the first and second pedestal. I know this sounds crazy but it happens. Arguing this to the officers only branded me as being lazy and a huge complainer at the job.

Or argue over a safety rule

And then there are those veterans seafarers who did the job a million times and think that for the last 30 years, the tools, equipment, regulation didn’t change or evolve. How would feel when somebody say this in your face?

“I’ve done this a million times even before you were born. Don’t tell me about that safety stuff. We’ll finish quickly if we do this!”

Arguing could lead to resentment, friction during the whole contract, and blame-blame. If something happens to him or if he’s scolded due to safety reasons, he could blame it all on you even if you got nothing to do with it. Its crazy but its happening. I just hope that its different now.

A rescue boat on the side of the ships with seafarers riding on it. There is also an embarkation rigged nearby.

If you see a risk that others take

Best approach is to take immediate action to prevent accidents from happening. A positive intervention could safe a life and even if you don’t like that crew mate, its still best to intervene respectfully.

Sometimes, their pride could get hurt. If you think this is so, tell someone close to that guy to remind him of safety matters. We don’t need to take unnecessary risks just to finish the job before 5 o’clock. Worse, if it leads to greater damage because of shortcuts, you could be working until midnight.

Shortcuts aren’t worth it especially if you have to regret it the rest of your life.

Being safety conscious is very helpful too. If the overall accidents and incidents decline permanently, shipowners will be happy since their marine insurance premium will remain steady. Charterers will hire the vessel more often since there would be no delay knowing that their cargo and the crew is safe.

But most importantly, being safety conscious will spread to other areas of your life including your family relationships. If you are so used to it, you can apply a safety mindset even when going in a shore leave.

Going back to the poem about safety from Don Merrell, I hope it reminds you to always be on the safe side whatever merchant ship you are working right now.

May the winds be on your favor.



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