Star Trek Beyond was released this summer, the latest installment in the modern reboot of the popular franchise. As a closet trekkie, I was more than a little excited. With the new release, I got to thinking about how despite all the advanced technology on the USS Enterprise, what the crew doesn’t have is a Safety Management System (SMS).
And really, when you look at Captain Kirk’s track record, it’s clear he really could have used one.
Let’s look at 4 key situations where an SMS would make a difference to the captain and his crew.
1. Equipment Reliability
The USS Enterprise’s teleporter always seems to be on the fritz at the exact moment Kirk is stranded on a foreign planet and some villain is getting ready to obliterate him. If Captain Kirk had an SMS, his crew would have no problem staying on top of maintenance issues.
A few examples of how automated Calibration and Maintenance tools might help:
- Leadership could assign maintenance responsibilities to different crew members.
- Staff could verify the teleporter has been properly calibrated and serviced before Kirk and his crew disembark on a strange planet.
- Automated maintenance alerts would notify the crew of equipment failures to prevent issues with beaming up.
2. Automated Warnings
All too often, the Enterprise crew finds their spaceship stuck in the grip of an immobilizing force field, possibly originating from a nearby enemy or mysterious entity. With an SMS, Kirk could possibly avoid some of these problems through better event detection.
For instance, the crew could link external instruments to dashboard Reporting systems in the bridge via the SMS. If these instruments could detect a force field, Kirk could set alerts for when force measurements approach critical thresholds. This kind of predictive approach would help them navigate around immobilizing fields, instead of always being stuck in reaction mode and having to negotiate with hostile life forms.
3. Personal Protective Equipment
A ship that encounters as much turbulence as the Enterprise does calls for some form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Sure, the inertial dampers can keep everyone in their seats for an expected movement, like if the ship needs to turn 90 degrees to get out of a tight space. Instead, crew members can barely hang onto their seats when the ship runs into unexpected obstacles, and you don’t see a seatbelt or helmet anywhere.
With an SMS, staff would be better prepared to work safely, without worrying they’ll have a concussion next time Kirk decides to take bold action (which is arguably one of his strong points). The SMS would help the crew:
- Determine the appropriate PPE needed for various employees by completing Job Safety Analysis (JSAs) for procedures in high-risk areas (like the bridge).
- Ensure all employees receive the proper training appropriate to their role and department, including when and how to use PPE.
- Link their PPE and training protocols with regulatory requirements to avoid problems with Federation officials.
4. Risk Management
In general, Captain Kirk and his crew could do a better job when it comes to risk management. They’re always getting into scrapes that introduce unacceptable risk to the ship and crew.
Take the safety incident involving the tribbles, for instance. In this episode, Lieutenant Uhura innocently buys a cute, furry little tribble (think a featureless guinea pig). Of course that’s not the end of it, as the tribbles start reproducing faster than rabbits. The tribbles end up alerting the crew to some poisoned food supplies, but not before they practically overrun the place and have be removed.
You’d think the Enterprise would have a policy against taking foreign animals on the ship, considering the crew is constantly traipsing across half the universe. A simple risk matrix would show that the potential risk is too high to take alien organisms on board as pets, no matter how cute they appear. As Dr. McCoy would say, “Are you out of your Vulcan mind?!”
Of course, with an SMS, things might have run too smoothly for Kirk and company. There wouldn’t be nearly the excitement, the danger, the incidents and near-misses that make the movies and original show so much fun.