Saturday, April 5, 2014

Loss and Fatalities: The risks of going faster

I blogged about Ganesh Pillay's tragic death earlier this year in should schizophrenics serve NS?

Many years ago when I heard my senior managers touting Just In Time, I quietly said to myself these blokes don't know the risk they were exposing themselves to. It's a matter of time they will learn the hard lessons, the sooner the better.

Then I saw how intense competition in game theory fashion caused everyone to go faster in order to compete successfully, throwing caution to the wind. A few years later BP paid a heavy price in a series of industrial accidents. But in China they treat the soil and the lakes as dumps for their industrial effluents, a much worse travesty.

Up close and personal I see bosses and colleagues not checking their work because there is no time. Everything must be done quickly and accurately but quick is more important than accurate. Meanwhile if you flip your papers regularly there are endless accidents at our construction sites.

An accident in one out of ten misses, nobody would take the risk. One out of hundred probably not, but say one out of a thousand nobody remember the few hundred near misses, they took the risk. After a while, a fatality. That's just the law of numbers. I think to a large degree this is the ill fated story of Ganesh Pillay. The medical officer assumes the manpower officer knew. Just as the Malaysian air force assume MH370 will turn back.

Some people are in a hurry and others are just lazy and complacent. We like to think that in Singapore's case most people are in a hurry and they pile on risks they don't understand until it blows up. This is the Black Swan of low probability but high impact.

If this perverse culture continue more innocent people will die, and I think these habits will persist especially when the public at large feel that they are not at risk. They cannot be more wrong. Just wait for sufficient number of near misses to pile up.

If you are a cyclist reading this never mind I am blogging for myself, your numbers are actually quite bad. I am sorry to say I have no choice but to wait for enough of you to die before the government will act decisively on this. In the meantime I just have to quit cycling on our roads until regulation catches up with practice. On the other hand if all cyclists get off the road the regulation will never catch up. This is the brutal fact of life that some will die that others might live. Since nobody wants to die, those who do are the mostly clueless and sometimes reckless ones. And I have not succeeded at persuading my nephew to not to cycle on our roads.

Update: 8:40 pm

Bosses, leaders and organizers often treat safety like a tax where it is a cost with no benefits. It raise the operating and set up costs and also slows you down. Now when there is a cost and then more costs, they begin to start wondering what can and should be done. Here the typical cost is severe injuries and even death.

I have heard how cyclists at the OCBC sponsored event opined about how easily it was to crash into each other...organizers assume cycling and running are synonymous. That is just untrue and insane.

People forget many serious but non fatal accidents do not make it to the media. These organizers are derelict and the primitive safety culture here helped them to get away with it.

Ganesh Pillay died because he didn't know how to protect himself or more like he couldn't. I didn't die from kidney disease because in NS I challenged my medical officer, almost threatening him. He had to do something. Ganesh Pillay failed to force Khatib Camp MO to own and act on his problem. The MO ought to have enough smarts to be aware of the bureaucratic risk. To me his was just not committed enough to doing a good job. This was a bad doctor. Now before the coroner he is trying to push away blame from himself.

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