Hardware, Software, and Safety

So Tam had a post up last week musing on the various and sundry mechanisms firearms designers and manufacturers have employed over the years to make their devices less susceptible to idiocy. She notes, quite rightly, that the only way to reduce accidental discharges is training, training, and more training. She closes on the fervent hope the someday we won’t try to mandate hardware fixes to software problems.

Nice pipe dream, Tam, but it ain’t ever gonna happen.

Here’s the problem. Hardware is cheap and easy. Software is tedious, time-consuming and expensive. In my day job, I am a project engineer in a manufacturing facility. I get to design and modify complicated equipment. I am at the front lines of dealing with the modern industrial safety culture in which nothing bad is ever permitted to happen to anyone, no matter how much they may deserve it. Before you think of me as even more of a heartless bastard, let explain what I mean by “deserve it”.

Large pieces of machinery are not very forgiving. Steel is, in all cases, harder than flesh and bone. If you stick your appendages into moving machinery, you will lose. Once you are of an age to have a full-time job, this should be immediately obvious. You deserve to lose if you don’t have a healthy respect for the machinery. At some level, the machinery has to function and sometimes that means bad things can happen if you insert yourself in the process. There’s just no getting around that if you want to get things done.

This doesn’t stop my corporate overlords from insisting on making every process safer. I have sat in meetings where people have tried to tell me we needed to redesign a process so the use of a dead blow hammer was no longer required. Why? One of our employees hit himself in the mouth with a hammer.

Think about that for a minute. A hammer is, quite literally, about the simplest iteration of hand tool imaginable. You can make one with a rock and a stick. If it gets any more basic, you’re using rocks to bang on things. There are people, and I work with them, who cannot be trusted with hammers because they hurt themselves.

So, if hammers are too fucking complicated, is there any hope for a really complicated device like a firearm?



Blogger TheWayfarer said...

Those geniuses out on the road that powder their noses/eat a five-course meal/read the freaking newspaper while driving to work...
Those are the folks you're trying to keep from getting what they deserve, and it ain't gonna happen!

6:46 PM  

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