Trying Safety Regulations

A parent in the school principal’s office was inquiring after her son. “Is he trying?” she asked expectantly. The principal smiled at her sardonically, “Ma’am, your son is the most trying boy in the school.”

In the Armed Services of any nation, Training Safety Regulations (TSR) or their equivalent ensure that no harm comes to any Serviceman, Servicewoman or Serviceperson, take your pick, while undergoing, conducting, umpiring or supervising training activities. The aim is of course also to ensure that injury or death due to blue-on-blue, or “friendly fire”, do not occur at all. It also ensures that no one conducts any activity or operates any equipment unless professionally qualified to do so. For a far-out example, no one should be allowed to wield a sword unless he can be relied upon to slash someone’s head off, and not accidentally cut off that someone’s ear while trying to do so. The Art of War admonishes us that:

A sovereign cannot raise an army because he is enraged, nor can a general fight because he is resentful. For while an angered man may again be happy, and a resentful man again be pleased, a state that has perished cannot be restored, nor can the dead be brought again to life. Ch XII v 18.

Obviously, we do not want our own people to die even if we are trying very hard to kill our enemies in order to prevent them killing or doing other harm to us.

Training Safety Regulations are obviously important. Complying with the “dos” and “do nots” is mandatory and non-compliance invokes the wrath of the establishment on the miscreants who dare. However, strict compliance with Training Safety Regulations cannot ensure safety. In fact, nothing can “ensure” safety. If someone is given an apparently good and serviceable piece of equipment to operate, but that said equipment is actually faulty, unexpected and highly undesirable outcomes may ensue. A faulty valve on an oxygen cylinder almost blew away the crew of Apollo 13. Although this was because someone had dropped that oxygen cylinder and not reported it, the meaning obtains. A fighter pilot diving under his own burst of cannon fire has been known to have been struck by his own shells because he had emerged from the dive in front of those same shells. I have read somewhere that at least one free fall parachute display team has been killed because members were so engrossed in practising the manoeuvres that they forgot to “ripcord” and buried themselves in the ground. I could go on. Recently I have asked myself “What are the safety distances and safety angles for incoming enemy fire?” Obviously none. The same thing applies to things like virus-induced pandemics.

Safety is a superstition, as Helen Keller said. No one can “ensure” safety by legislating it and imposing its fears on the rest of society. We have to overcome, not by being “safe” but by being more competent, bolder, stronger and better at living well. We overcome because we take care of each other appropriately, not cringing whenever “safe measures” are forced upon us.

Training Safety Regulations are just that. Regulations and guidelines. They cannot ensure safety. Asking that they do so makes them Trying Safety Regulations. I suggest we don’t.

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