More work needed for 'zero training deaths'

I offer my condolences to the family of Corporal First Class Liu Kai (Soldier in field collision 'sociable, hard-working'; Nov 5).

I am writing as a concerned mother, as my only son will be enlisted for national service soon.

I am disappointed to read about this recent fatal accident, the third one in 14 months, despite Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen stressing the need for the Singapore Armed Forces to "make zero training deaths the norm".

It appears that the recent death was an avoidable and careless mistake - the result of a failure to keep a proper lookout before reversing.

Current and future full-time national servicemen as well as their families need these assurances to ensure that safety is the top priority:

•NSFs should pass safety training tests before they are allowed in the field.

•In addition to fatal accidents, near-miss accidents should also be reported and treated as learning points for NSFs.

•NSFs should be allowed to go on medical leave granted by medical officers. There have been online allegations that medical leave given to some NSFs was shortened or cancelled by their superiors.

•NSFs should not be coerced into undertaking risky activities to test their tolerance limits.

•There should be regular audits of safety procedures to ensure that there are no major violations. When non-compliance is detected, the punishment should be harsh enough to discourage recurrence.

•Jail commanders who violate safety procedures, thereby causing serious injury or death to NSFs.

•Offer an avenue for whistle-blowers to report to the Ministry of Defence on any violation of safety procedures.

•All commanders and NSFs must help to look out for fellow NSFs who show signs of distress during physical exercise, and NSFs should alert their commanders immediately.

Tan Saw Bin (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2018, with the headline 'More work needed for 'zero training deaths''. Print Edition | Subscribe