This Flower, Safety

“The purpose you undertake is dangerous.”

“Why, that’s certain. ‘Tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink;
but I tell you, my lord fool,
out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.”

Henry IV Part 1: Act 2, Scene 3

On a recent work project, I stumbled across a list of eight “key safety areas” for ships. As another “she,” and in an interdisciplinary mood, I started wondering about my own safety performance in these areas.


Performance: Excellent.  Structural design is one of two models in widespread use, and proven safe in this family of users for periods exceeding 90 years.  A history of structural failures in advanced years in related units is cause for concern.

Trend: Declining. Years of low investment in maintenance on this unit have resulted in reduced structural strength.

Engineering Systems

Performance: Good. Systems have performed well to date, requiring no surgical or mechanical intervention.

Trend:  Declining.  Visual, balance, and paying-attention systems are showing signs of wear and tear, resulting in safety concerns on stairs.

Fire Safety

Performance: Excellent. No observed tendency to burst into flames under routine, day-to-day operation.

Trend:  Declining. Increased tendency to get hot under the collar.


Performance: Excellent (written); adequate (spoken).

Trend:  Declining (both). Increased incidence of failing to find the right word, especially under pressure.

Navigation and Seamanship

Performance: Poor. In addition to a regrettable tendency to throw up under conditions of turbulence, inadequate map-reading skills and inability to visualize spatial relationships have resulted in swerves onto freeway exits at speed.

Trend:  Declining.  Reliance on artificial navigation systems has further atrophied onboard systems.

Dangerous Goods

Performance: Good. Lifelong avoidance of nicotine has improved fire safety scores associated with lit cigarettes; similar avoidance of controlled substances has undoubtedly improved ratings from what otherwise would have been achieved in communications and navigation.

Trend:  Declining. Effects from alcohol exposure observed to be higher than in earlier years.

Buoyancy, Stability, and Controllability

Performance: Good. Buoyancy (physical and mental) scores highest of these elements. Stability (mental; see Engineering Systems for performance in physical stability) acts as a mild moderating force, reducing the safety hazards associated with undeniably low scores on controllability.

Trend:  Declining. Increasing age observed to be correlated with declining scores on all elements.

Escape, Evacuation, and Rescue

Performance: Untested.

Trend: Unknown, but likely declining. Isn’t everything?


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8 Responses to This Flower, Safety

  1. JimTaylor says:

    Delightful. We had “Plain Language Day” a couple of weeks ago — this shows how the immediately understandable phrase “growing older” can be jargonified into mumblespeak. I may pay you the ultimate compliment of borrowing your idea…
    Jim T

  2. Jim Robertson says:

    Very good Isabel ! You have such a way with words and analysis that it’s scary at times.

  3. Barry Jewell says:

    “paying-attention systems are showing signs of wear and tear, resulting in safety concerns”

    I have been informed that these are not in the progress of deteriorating – they have been deficient for an exceedingly long time. The “safety concern” may be a charge of homicide laid on others.

  4. Mary Elford says:

    Isabel, I see no signs of a declining sense of humour…

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Mary – Hmm. There seems to be no ship’s system for humour. I’ll look into it. At least in humans I’d say it’s a definite safety(valve) system.

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