Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training safety record for 2012

The seven Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) deaths reported for 2012 made this the worst tally for Singaporeans killed in camp or during military training since 2009, when the SAF reported 10 deaths.

Last year's figure could have been higher had a near-miss, said to involve at least five servicemen, not been the case.

The incident mirrors a December 1996 tragedy when an officer cadet was shot in the chest by a 7.62mm GPMG round which had been misfired. This leads to the question whether and how well the SAF institutionalises lessons learned from previous fatal incidents and/or near-misses.

The Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF should be keenly aware that near-misses, particularly those involving firearms, shake the confidence of young soldiers in the safety protocols, guidelines and processes that are meant to safeguard SAF personnel.

Families who are aware of the near-miss also worry, not without reason, for the safety of their loved ones.

The learning value of such near-misses is tragically lost when the system does not make it a practice to share lessons learned or report close shaves to the Singaporean public. This deprives our citizens' armed forces of a golden opportunity to strengthen the safety awareness and safety first culture in Our Army.

In year-on-year terms, the training deaths reported in 2012 - the year that celebrated 45 Years of National Service - was a grim advance from the three SAF deaths reported in 2011.

The death tally for 2011 came after the SAF maintained a clean record of zero training deaths in 2010, which was an unmatched safety record since full-time conscription began in 1967.

The growth trajectory of SAF deaths from three in 2011 to seven in 2012 - more than doubling the death toll in one year - is alarming. Nobody in Singapore should attempt to densensitise Singaporeans to the gravity of the matter because every death is one too many.

Even if MINDEF/SAF halves the death rate in 2013, this means at least three funerals for NSFs or NSmen this year. Is this acceptable to you?

Last year, four of the deaths were full-time National Service (NSFs), two were operationally ready NSmen (i.e. reservists) while one was a regular.

The first training death for 2012 took place just 10 days after the start of the new year when a 28-year-old soldier fainted and failed to regain consciousness after completing his 2.4km run at Kranji Camp III.

At least two deaths in 2012 appeared to have been self-inflicted, with the likely cause of death being death by asphyxiation.

Related posts:
SAF training deaths: Views from a father of one of the fallen. Click here

SAF training deaths: Proactive, preventive action speaks louder than words. Click here


alvin said...

Hi David,

Would love to read your response to the views on the following if you get the chance;



cheers and happy new year!

Anonymous said...

Just read about another accident in Tekong.