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Pump wells to be decommissioned at all fire stations by Dec 2018 following death of SCDF NSF

SINGAPORE — All 19 pump wells located at fire stations will be decommissioned by year end to remove the risk of unauthorised access in the wake of full-time national serviceman Corporal Kok Yuen Chin’s death in May.

Fire station pump wells — a reservoir of water used by fire station personnel for training and for testing the pumps of fire engines — will be filled up with granite chips and covered with concrete slabs.

Fire station pump wells — a reservoir of water used by fire station personnel for training and for testing the pumps of fire engines — will be filled up with granite chips and covered with concrete slabs.

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SINGAPORE — All 19 pump wells located at fire stations will be decommissioned by year end to remove the risk of unauthorised access in the wake of full-time national serviceman Corporal Kok Yuen Chin’s death in May.

This is one of the measures undertaken by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on the recommendations of the board of inquiry (BOI), which was convened to look into the death of SCDF serviceman CPL Kok. The 22-year-old Malaysian national was found dead at the bottom of a 12m pump well at Tuas View Fire Station in May.

A BOI was convened to look into the circumstances of his death, and to recommend “improvements to regulations, rules, systems, infrastructure, programmes, processes, and any other possible actions SCDF could take, to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents”.

Statements were obtained from over 50 SCDF personnel during the inquiry, and the board also visited Tuas View Fire Station where the incident took place.

In a press release on Thursday (Sep 13), the SCDF spelt out the measures it is undertaking to prevent such incidents from happening again, after studying the BOI’s proposals.

Fire station pump wells — a reservoir of water used by fire station personnel for training and for testing the pumps of fire engines — will be filled up with granite chips and covered with concrete slabs.

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Going ahead, the SCDF said all fire engine water pumps and related training will be conducted at the Civil Defence Academy at Jalan Bahar, and will be scheduled to coincide with the officers’ regular training at the academy.

The SCDF added that it will make its anti-ragging briefings more interactive, enhance its disciplinary and whistleblowing frameworks to reassure victims and witnesses of ragging incidents, and strengthen its recognition framework to acknowledge officers — at both the unit and organisational levels — who go the extra mile to show care for their colleagues.

For example, to ensure that the anti-ragging message is well ingrained in its officers, the SCDF will conduct more experiential learning. Reporting channels will also be made available in the four official languages to facilitate reporting by officers and their families in a language with which they are comfortable.

In a separate press release on Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Minister K Shanmugam has accepted the BOI’s recommendations in full.

It added that the inquiry is separate from the investigations conducted by the Singapore Police Force, or any subsequent disciplinary proceedings that may be undertaken by SCDF.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE BOARD OF INQUIRY

  • Fire stations do not need to have their own pump wells as pump well testing and training can be centralised at the Civil Defence Academy.

  • The SCDF should take additional measures to restrict access and ensure the safe usage of the pump wells at the Civil Defence Academy.

  • Review SCDF’s anti-ragging measures, particularly in terms of helping servicemen better internalise the policy, through having more hands-on instructional methods to teach servicemen how to identify or stop ragging, and equip them with a standard set of reponse lines to help them say “no” to ragging.

  • Enhance SCDF’s disciplinary and whistle-blowing policies to give greater assurance to victims and observers that their interests will be protected.

  • Expand the number of channels through which SCDF servicemen can report ragging incidents.

  • Train SCDF commanders to help them pre-empt ragging among officers under their charge. Officers who do not hold command positions but are senior in terms of rank or length of service should also be further trained to reinforce an anti-ragging culture within their own circles of influence.

  • Enhance CCTV coverage in vulnerable areas within SCDF areas, and to strengthen training on risk management and workplace safety.

BACKGROUND

Corporal Kok Yuen Chin had been celebrating his impending end of full-time national service with his squad mates on the night of May 13. One of the celebratory activities involved him getting into the pump well at Tuas View Fire Station.

The 22-year-old did not resurface after he was pushed into the well. When a few other SCDF personnel tried to look for him, they could not find him. He was later found unconscious at the bottom of the 12m pump well after all the water had been drained out.

Five SCDF officers, aged between 32 and 40, have since been charged with offences relating to the death of the Malaysian national and Singapore Permanent Resident.

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