The Indian Navy, in recent years, has taken a quantum leap in operational ability with the induction of a large number of sophisticated platforms, deployed across all three dimensions. The fast pace of operations, accentuated by increasing complexities often puts men and material under strain, thus requiring stringent adherence to safety procedures. The Indian Navy is sensitive of the fact that all naval evolutions need to be effectively undertaken within a well defined safety operating envelope. Accordingly, ‘safety culture’ as a way of life, amongst personnel, traditionally forms a part of naval ethos, and several initiatives have additionally been introduced based on emerging requirements.
To inculcate a ‘think safety’ attitude amongst naval personnel, training in safety is undertaken from the ab-initio stage itself and is reinforced at all stages of the naval career.
In case of a long lay-off such as refits of ships and submarines, which could extend from a few months to a year or more, ‘Safety Checks’ in harbour and at sea are undertaken prior to declaring the ship/submarine ‘operational’. Safety also forms an important aspect during the ‘work-up’ of a ship or submarine which is usually undertaken at least once in two years. Work-up of ships are undertaken by a specialised team of officers and sailors operating under the Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST). Similar safety checks are undertaken for submarines, air-squadrons and air bases by their respective Operational Authorities. Safety standards are also ‘checked’ during audit and inspections by the Command Staff, during the Annual Inspections by the Operational Authorities.
To further promote safety culture, it was decided to introduce a framework comprising Safety Class Authorities (SCAs) who essentially are experts in their respective fields. These authorities undertake various safety related measures such as promulgation of analysis of incidents/accidents, policy guidelines on safety, safety awareness programmes, etc.
Post recent incidents onboard submarines, safety stand-downs were ordered and extensive checks on weapon related safety systems and audit of Standard Operating Procedures on all operational submarines were ordered. In accordance with current regulations, any incident is thoroughly investigated to not just identify any errors, but more importantly, to address critical areas on material and training related aspects so as to prevent recurrence of incidents. The analysis of all incidents is also being promulgated to the concerned training establishments and Operational Authorities for further dissemination of corrective measures.
As an added step, NHQ directed conduct of safety ‘stand-down’ and a one-time safety audits prior operational deployment of any ship or submarine. This has since been institutionalised as a regular annual audit for all operational units. The procedures involve ‘Safety Audits’ of all operational units by nominated teams at the Command and Operational levels. Safety templates to undertake these audits in respect of ships, submarines, air-squadrons and air-bases have also been promulgated. Besides, water tight integrity and fire fighting preparedness of units under refit have been ordered once a quarter. A feedback procedure has also been institutionalised and is being monitored at Naval Headquarters.
The Indian Navy is seized of the fact that safety of men and material is vital and is a necessary component of any armed forces organisation. The promotion of safety culture and consciousness is however not intended to curb the traditional naval ethos of initiative and boldness. The observance of ‘safety first, safety always’ is therefore intended to strengthen the professional approach to enhance combat capability and to facilitate conduct of naval operations with the desired elan.