Ongoing efforts to improve safety on US Navy ships whilst they are undergoing maintenance should be enhanced, Government Accountability Office (GAO) says.
The US Navy reported more than US$4 billion in estimated damage from fires that occurred onboard ships undergoing maintenance from May 2008 through December 2022, but it does not have a process for consistently collecting, analysing, and sharing the lessons learned.
These are among the key findings of a report, ‘Navy Ship Fires: Ongoing Efforts to Improve Safety Should Be Enhanced’, published by the GAO in April 2023. The report examines, among other things, the extent that the US Navy has addressed lessons learned from fires and developed a process to improve the collection, analysis, and sharing of lessons learned; collected and analysed data about the effects that fires during maintenance have on ships; and assessed the effectiveness of training provided to personnel to implement fire-safety policies on ships during maintenance.
As a result of deficiencies in how it responds to fire, analyses them and shares information, the US Navy has ‘lost lessons learned’ over time, such as steps that a ship can take to improve fire safety, the GAO said. In response, it has recommended that the US Navy improve how it shares fire safety information and how it evaluates its fire safety trainings. In the period reviewed by the GAO, there were 15 major fire incidents – a review of US Navy documentation indicated that multiple personnel suffered from injuries, although no deaths were reported from the incidents.
In its report, the GAO makes three recommendations to the US Navy. The first is that the Secretary of the Navy, in collaboration with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, should ensure that the US Navy issues guidance to require a process that will allow consistent collection, analysis, and sharing of fire safety-related lessons learned.
The second recommendation is that the Secretary of the Navy, in collaboration with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, should ensure that a single organisation is responsible for using existing fire-incident data to analyse the broad effects that fire incidents for ships undergoing maintenance have on Navy operations and inform the Navy’s response to risks.
The third recommendation is that the Secretary of the Navy, in collaboration with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, should ensure establishment of service-wide goals and performance measures for the Navy’s fire-safety training activities and a process to monitor and report progress toward these goals.