The Trouble with Safety and Security


HERE is the conundrum: governments demand that we have secure operations. Governments demand that our operations be safer. Each is on their terms. Which is more important in the face of governments tending to conflate safety and security?

First a distinction. Safety is reactive. Our courts act after negligence to apply the balm of money to the injured. Security is prescriptive. It tells us what we ought to do to perfect ourselves within its ambit and fines or sends us to prison if we do not.

For safety we agreed to weed out ships through Port State Control. The Memoranda dealt with safety, guided by prescription, a benign enough matter. From the 1985 hijack of cruise ship Achille Lauro to the events of September 11, 2001,we understood that tautening the system was beneficial. That is not prescriptive fiddle stringing,however. Thus safety cannot be security and security cannot be safety. Benjamin Franklin remarked: “He who’s secure is not safe.He who’s safe is not secure.”How cant his be?

Safety is the lack of negligence. Negligence relies on the vagaries of human nature. Extirpating negligence cannot happen prescriptively.

Prescriptive security is more slippery, especially national security. There is no concise definition of security, much less national security.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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