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Nearly 50% rise in number of safety lapses reported in SAF: Mindef

SINGAPORE — More servicemen are reporting safety hazards, unsafe practices and near misses they encounter during training and in camps, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Thursday (Nov 5).

Nearly 50% rise in number of safety lapses reported in SAF: Mindef

Mr Heng Chiang Gnee (third from left), chairman of the External Review Panel on SAF Safety, being briefed on the safety measures implemented by the Island Defence Training Institute.

  • In 2019, SAF received 49 per cent more safety reports from servicemen compared to the year before
  • This was a result of SAF’s push for servicemen to report hazards early to make training safer
  • The Inspector-General’s Office has audited 85 per cent of all SAF units

 

SINGAPORE — More servicemen are reporting safety hazards, unsafe practices and near misses they encounter during training and in camps, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Thursday (Nov 5).

Last year, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) received 49 per cent more of such reports compared with 2018. TODAY understands that the number of reports received each year ranges in the thousands.

SAF has in recent years been encouraging its servicemen to make these reports through their unit or safety hotlines. They can choose to make these reports anonymously, and Mindef and SAF can then investigate and take action accordingly.

One such incident was when a soldier, engrossed with using his mobile phone, almost walked under an awning that was being cleared by a contractor on a hydraulic crane.

Senior Warrant Office Zulkarnaen Hussain, who is chief master trainer at the Island Defence Training Institute, said that the soldier was stopped immediately by a passerby. The incident was reported as a near-miss.

To make training safer, an open reporting culture without fear of reprisal was listed as the immediate focus for Brigadier-General (BG) Tan Chee Wee, when he was appointed SAF’s first Inspector-General last year.

The Inspector-General’s Office (IGO) was set up in February last year to improve safety standards across all SAF units, following the death of four soldiers in training over a span of 18 months.

In a letter to a newspaper a month after he was appointed, BG Tan gave the assurance that servicemen will be granted confidentiality when they report safety lapses or near-misses, pledging to discipline any commander who punishes servicemen making these reports.

Lance-Corporal (NS) Paul Toh, 31, attested to this. “If I see my superiors doing something unsafe, I can also voice it out,” the director of a consulting firm said. He is on the ninth cycle of his reservist training.

The update on the safety reports was given during a field visit to the institute at Clementi Camp by the SAF’s External Review Panel on safety. Formed in July 2017, the 12-member panel is made up of safety experts and professionals from outside of the military.

The panel was on its ninth and final visit to an SAF unit, where it observed the safety practices of mask-wearing soldiers from the Singapore Infantry Regiment 906th Battalion taking part in search-and-arrest training.

Speaking to reporters, the panel’s chairman Heng Chiang Gnee applauded the improvements to SAF's open reporting culture. He noted that the first panel, which he was a part of, had previously recommended that SAF build a stronger safety culture.

“Over the last three years, I am quite happy to see that SAF has been quite dogged in pursuing it. That is something very positive,” the former chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health Council said.

The panel will finalise its report, which will recommend safety improvements to Mindef, by the end of the year.

Separately, the IGO has completed 85 per cent of its first safety audit of all units in the SAF.

It initially aimed to complete the audits by September. Because of audit delays due to Covid-19 safety measures, it now aims to finish by the end of the year.

Related topics

Mindef SAF NS safety training

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