Submarines and Submariners - Purpose of Safety Stand Downs
Submariners like to read what PigBoatSailor (PBS) writes about subs with avid interest and great respect.
Here PBS shared his rare, personal perspective on the highly unusual and recently announced submarine fleet safety stand down. Note 1
So what then is the purpose of this stand-down? PBS asks.
As a former safety director in a high tech industry, I learned both the purpose and effectiveness of safety stand downs firsthand, and our safety record was the envy of the industry:
Stand downs are the most convincing method of communicating top leadership's commitment to safety to every level of an organization. Safety stand downs are more effective to more people than examples of poor safety outcomes, whether permamnent disabilities, loss of lives, or formal punishments.
Safety stand downs are effective because they are unmistakeably expensive in terms of their cost (time sacrificed) and missions foregone. It is obvious to everyone that such drastic measures require and have top level authorization and must command everyone's earnest attention going forward. For these reasons stand downs can be used only rarely, implying circumstances have been deteriorating and are now deemed unacceptable toward the extreme. Note 2
So how and why does a sophisticated, industrial safety techique get applied to a military organization like the submarine service? The sub fleet has shrunk, and its repair and overhaul budget is being closely monitored by unsympathetic eyes in the U.S. Congress. The readiness of crew and submarine for its next mission could be more important than it was for its prior mission. Submarine COs are accountable for more than success of the current. In WWII, underperforming COs were assigned desk duties (and they were USNA graduates)!
And, who says stand downs are an industrial technique? Recall the grounding of aircraft types after accidents with unknown causes. Also, see Note 3 for the Navy's own examples.
1- source: Multimission-Capable Sub Readies for Full Operation
2- Iran: U.S. Sub Was Spying (ME: So what, no excuse for being in a bad position in the bottleneck; submarine COs are accountable for more than mission success - future availability of crew and vessel are also paramount).
3- Navy safety stand down (ORM) literature sampling: here and here (AFLOAT SAFETY STAND-DOWN GUIDE). ME: Notice that the fleet wide stand down is obviously much more costly and precedent setting. Submarines will still be silent and strange, and their missions are sometimes extremely hazardous. There is absosolutely no reason to make them more hazardous than is necessary. Great move, NAVY!
Submarines are always silent and strange.