Army embarks on safety drive

SINGAPORE - From a safety mascot to arming soldiers with a pocket-sized card containing outfield safety tips, the Singapore Army is embarking on a new safety drive using a fresh approach.

For the first time, it is canvassing ideas from civilian contractors in planning and organising a year-long safety campaign which has been tentatively set an April launch date.

According to Feb 3 tender documents obtained by The Straits Times, army planners also want video and animation clips to make it easier for soldiers to understand safety concerns, and posters and banners to be put up in 16 army camps islandwide. There will also be an annual army-wide safety seminar for up to 600 soldiers.

Proposals for the tender are supposed to be presented today.

Colonel Lam Pei Sien, who heads the Army Safety Inspectorate, confirmed the move, saying that the army is getting feedback on ideas to enhance its safety education programme and "will be glad to share details when it is finalised".

Noting that the safety of servicemen is of "paramount importance", he added that the army is continually seeking new ways to improve its safety systems.

The outsourcing is part of the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) ongoing efforts to spot, cut down and eliminate training hazards. A high-level body, the Safety and Systems Review Directorate, was set up last year in the wake of accidents in which two national servicemen died in 2012.

Private Dominique Sarron Lee Rui Feng, 21, died of an allergic reaction after a platoon commander threw six smoke grenades in a training exercise when the maximum allowed was two.

Third Sergeant Tan Mou Sheng, 20, was killed when his jeep overturned. He was not wearing a safety belt or a helmet.

Reporting to the Defence Ministry's permanent secretary, the directorate is made up of panels which review training safety and audit the SAF's procedures against best practices of not just other militaries, but industries as well.

The army has also been sending more full- time safety officers to its ground units. These officers report directly to the unit commander.

Last March, the SAF added "safety" to its list of core values, requiring soldiers to pledge to uphold the attribute every day.

When contacted, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, welcomed the move to promote safety "continually", rather than "periodically". "Messages have to be constantly drummed in and reinforced by soldiers and commanders in order to build a safety culture."

jermync@sph.com.sg

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