Sunday, February 13, 2011

Singapore's Defence: The week ahead

The week ahead includes three items that Singapore watchers may want to pencil into the diaries.

These are:

1. Monday 14 February 2011, Parliament sitting
Debate on Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training safety in the wake of the death of LCP Eugin Wee on 28 January 2011.

2. Tuesday 15 February 2011, 69th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will sound its Public Warning System to mark the occasion.

3. Friday 18 February 2011, Budget for FY 2011/12
Look out for the sum budgeted for the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). This is expected to be another bumper budget for MINDEF as the transformation of the Third Generation SAF advances further and as the SAF takes on operational commitments overseas.


FinalFive said...

Seems like nothing new:

Mr Speaker, Sir, I am saddened by the loss of LCP Eugin Wee Yong Choon on 28 January 2011. I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family.

Associate Professor Straughan referred to two incidents. The first incident occurred on 3 July 2009 at Seletar Camp. A Motor Transport Officer was pinned under a landrover and succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. A Committee of Inquiry convened to investigate the incident found that the driver of the vehicle had been negligent in his duties as a driver, and had failed to follow the correct vehicle mounting and starting procedures.The Police also conducted a separate and independent investigation. The driver of the vehicle was subsequently charged in Court for causing death by doing a negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide. He pleaded guilty and was fined $5,000 and disqualified from driving all vehicles for four years.

Following this incident one and a half years ago in 2009, MINDEF and the SAF conducted a review on the procedures for vehicle mounting and starting and concluded that they were fundamentally sound, and the incident could have been prevented if the driver had followed them. The SAF has continued to reinforce these procedures and remind its vehicle commanders and drivers to adhere strictly to them before mounting and starting any vehicle.

The most recent incident involving LCP Eugin Wee occurred on 28 January 2011. The SAF immediately ordered a safety time-out that same day, for unit commanders to go through with all vehicle commanders and drivers vehicular safety drills and procedures. The SAF does this when there is an incident of note, because these are teachable moments when safety procedures are reinforced and lessons learnt, shared, so that every person is aware of the relevance of procedures and safety consciousness, and each person knows that safety is in his hands and what he does or does not do can have serious consequences on his buddies or himself.

Mr Speaker Sir, MINDEF takes the safety and well-being of our servicemen very seriously. The Army's Safety System is not simply one which is drawn up on its own, but is also certified in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series or OHSAS. The adherence to OHSAS provides a comprehensive system of safety management based on a set of standard procedures designed to systematically and methodically manage risk in all work processes. OHSAS, for those who are not familiar with it, is an internationally recognised system created by a group of world leading bodies and consultancies who are the authorities of standards and these include countries like Ireland, Australia, South African and Britain. The Army constantly upkeeps our OHSAS standards and undergoes annual inspection and audit by an independent external agency. In addition, the Army also conducts internal Safety Management System Audits on all army units.

The prescribed safety procedures are hence fundamentally sound, but we have to continue to do better to make sure that they are followed. This includes regular reminders to those responsible for operating vehicles and special reminders during such teachable moments. However, safety procedures cannot cover every specific condition that may arise. Hence, it is also important that every serviceman has safety consciousness, looks out for the safety of his men, his buddies and himself.

MINDEF is conducting a Commission of Inquiry, and the Police are independently conducting their investigations into the death of LCP Wee. As these inquiries are in progress, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this specific case at this point in time."

I recognise these lines :-)

FinalFive said...

The OHSAS system was introduced with good intentions, but I wonder if its effects achieved those intentions.

It was irrelevant in this case, in my opinion. An accident due to negligence of an individual should be recognised for what it is. The funny thing about public opinion seems to be that if I say in 1 line that "it was an accident due to X's negligence" and I say in the next few lines that "our safety system is in place", people get the idea that "the system's unsafe".

I think the way OHSAS has been treated has bred a culture of fear in commanders to proceed with training properly. Drawing reference to it in the present case is unnecessary. It becomes rather, a lightning rod for comments.

A good response, in fact, to me the best response given, was the response after the death of the SOF trainee during waterborne training. Should check it out...

David Boey said...

Hi FinalFive,
If I read you correctly, this the statement you are referring to (pse read on). I was there when Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean gave a doorstop on the sidelines of the MINDEF Pride Day on 15 June 2005.

Referring to the death of 2SG Ong Jia Hui, Mr Teo said:"I am very grateful that there are people like 2SG Ong, men like that in the unit, who come forward to take on this demanding task.

"They know that at any moment, they may be called, and their lives are on the line. So they take training very seriously and they look after each other very seriously.

"If there are any shortcomings, if there are any persons who have failed to perform their duty properly, then of course, we will rectify this shortcoming. And the persons who have not performed their duties properly, they will have to be called to task.

"The Coroner has made his findings. It is now up to the Attorney General, whether they have any basis to charge any of them. This is something we will have to leave to the Attorney General to decide."

FinalFive said...

That's correct David, thanks!