No training-related fatalities in SAF last year

There were no training-related fatalities recorded by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) last year following new safety measures, but the number of reported close calls soared.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, the Second Minister for Defence, told Parliament that there were 60 per cent more reported near-misses in the first half of last year compared with the same period in 2012.

He later clarified that this was due to "the increase in command emphasis to have more incidents reported", and not due to more cases of carelessness.

He welcomed the overall improvement in safety, but cautioned: "This is not a sign that we have arrived... This requires tremendous effort and for us to be constantly on our guard."

Mr Chan's comments came in response to a question from Mr Alex Yam (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who asked if the number of near misses and serious injuries last year had fallen with the introduction of more safety measures.

Mr Chan noted that the number of non-fatal training incidents had been "about the same" in the past two years, inching up from 67 in 2012 to 68 last year.

He also updated the House on the SAF's training safety system.

One initiative involved setting up a review panel comprising outside experts, which has assessed practices at facilities like the Basic Military Training Centre and Officer Cadet School.

The panel was convened by the Safety and Systems Review Directorate, which was established last year in the wake of accidents in which two national servicemen died in 2012.

It found the SAF safety system to be "robust", and its recommendations have helped the SAF "to check (its) blind spots", said Mr Chan.

For example, the panel recommended paying attention to recruits' psychological well-being, as well as their physical safety. The SAF has also deployed experienced ex-regulars as unit safety officers as an "external pair of eyes" to teach new and junior commanders.

Mr Chan noted: "All military operations will have inherent risks. Our job is to make sure we minimise risks... even though we cannot eliminate them altogether."

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