Because the Navy failed to buy enough flame-resistant coveralls, the safety of sailors throughout the fleet is at risk every day. Yet any possible fix appears some distance away as officialdom continues to study the matter.
One of two working groups tasked with researching the fire risks of Navy organizational clothing has finished and drafted recommendations, but is keeping them under wraps while the other group begins its review.
If the brass does not recognize the urgency of this matter, the sailors at risk do: Senior enlisted leaders say it is common for their engine room sailors to buy their own FR gear.
Yet many continue to work without it, even though the FR uniform is required.
That is unsat. And, unfortunately, it is not just about coveralls — the NWU melts and drips when exposed to flame, too, as Navy Times reported nearly five months ago. That’s plenty of time for Navy leaders to have recognized a clear problem and rushed FR gear to sailors aboard ships.
The most immediate danger is to sailors in the engine room, where fire is a greater risk.
A pair of FR coveralls costs $72.60. Equipping all 12,579 engineering sailors with two pairs would cost roughly $1.8 million. In the big scheme, that’s chump change.
This is a no-brainer: Equip these sailors with FR gear immediately. And if commands say they need more pairs, send them those, too. This can be married up with the working groups’ efforts to find solutions to the wider FR clothing problem, but if safety really is paramount, get safe coveralls for all sailors now.