SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has renewed its emphasis on safety, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How said in his Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Committee of Supply speech on Friday (Mar 1), announcing that all high-risk and field training will be inspected for safety.
“Commanders have comprehensively reviewed safety management plans and the overall training tempo. They know that they must lead by example in driving safety as a topmost priority,” Mr Heng said.
“The Army will also ensure 100 per cent inspection of all high risk and field training. We want, through concrete action, to reassure Singaporeans that training safety is a top priority for MINDEF and the SAF.”
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High-risk training includes overseas exercises and live firing, while field training includes field and tactical manoeuvres. Previously, inspections were done for all high-risk training but only some field training.
These inspections will be done by one of three levels of the Army safety audit and training inspection system.
ARMY SAFETY INSPECTORATE
At the highest level is the Army Safety Inspectorate (ASI), which develops safety regulations, conducts safety audits and training inspections, investigates safety incidents, promotes safety education and analyses safety-related trends.
“We are also doing our very best, our utmost to raise the safety consciousness of every soldier,” ASI head Colonel Tong Yi Chuen said during a surprise inspection of a live firing exercise on Thursday.
“We find that safety inspections are one of the mechanisms to ensure that all units are complying with safety regulations. We also use this chance to check the competencies of personnel involved.”
The ASI inspection team conducts about 300 safety audit and training inspections each year.
Safety audits assess the unit’s safety processes and provide feedback on its safety organisation, while training inspections are unannounced spot checks during training to check the unit’s compliance with Training Safety Regulations.
“For example, inspectors will check the authorised operating materials, such as lesson plans, and verify that the safety protocols are being adhered to during training,” MINDEF said in a media release on Friday.
“Such safety protocols include the enforcement of hydration regime and the conduct of risk assessment checks by the section commanders.”
Each safety audit and inspection team is made up of two ASI inspectors, who are military or ex-military commanders experienced in training. They are also required to attain Workplace Safety and Health basic and advanced certification.
LOWER LEVELS OF SAFETY SYSTEM
The inspections can also be done by the lower levels of the safety system, which comprise the division or formation headquarters and below it the ground units themselves.
The division and formation headquarters perform a second layer of audits and inspections to enforce implementation of safety and training systems on the ground, while the unit headquarters and safety officers conduct internal inspections on their sub-units’ training activities.
Beyond these three levels, the newly formed Inspector-General Office (IGO) will also from April conduct independent audits and inspections to ensure that the SAF’s safety policy and objectives are being implemented effectively.
In addition, MINDEF said the IGO will work with ASI and other service inspectorates to share and incorporate safety ideas and best practices from all services and from outside the SAF.
“I believe these efforts will really help us better understand how services ensure troops train safely while training realistically as well,” Inspector-General Brigadier-General Tan Chee Wee said on Thursday during the surprise inspection.
“I also believe that these efforts will help us unveil potential weaknesses in our inspection systems.”
NEW APP TO HIGHLIGHT SAFETY HAZARDS
Meanwhile from March, the Navy will also trial in its bases a mobile application that will allow servicemen to take photos of workplace hazards and share them with other servicemen.
The app, called SafeGuardian, can also provide access to safety checklists on-the-go, although these forms are currently only available on the terminals in camp.
One possible scenario where the app could be used is when servicemen in camp notice sharp wire fittings that could cause injury. They can take a photo of it using the app, which will inform relevant SAF safety officers for further action.
“Your buddies nearby will also be informed via safety alerts to their mobile phones,” Mr Heng said.
The app, which has been developed since last year, will be progressively implemented to the rest of the SAF “as soon as possible”.
"Ultimately, safety involves this, everything that I’ve mentioned, but it also involves more than just sound systems and top-down measures," Mr Heng added. "Safety must be a part of our organisational culture, one that every soldier at every level has a role to own, to build and to foster."