Robust safety regime should be second nature to all soldiers

Each story on the death of a national serviceman in training triggers in me a feeling of deja vu.

When I read about Corporal First Class Liu Kai's death, it transported me back to a fateful day in February 2001, when I lost my older son in a training accident at Changi Naval Base (NSF dies in vehicle collision during local field exercise; Nov 4).

In peacetime military training, every death is one death too many.

What makes it more painful is the fact that most deaths were not the consequence of equipment malfunctioning or failure.

Rather, they resulted from human failure, in not complying with training safety regimes, wilful disregard of safety regulations, lack of or poor supervision, irresponsibility and negative attitudes of soldiers.

Every accident presents valuable learning points, but unless they are constructively used, the committees of inquiry convened become exercises in futility.

Punishment of the perpetrators, military funerals and posthumous promotions of the deceased, support rendered to the affected families and reiteration by the authorities on a zero-tolerance approach for accidents do little, if at all, to alleviate the pain of loss.

What is needed is a robust training safety regime which is inculcated in every serviceman, both NSFs and career soldiers, so that it becomes second nature to them.

They must be made to understand that they, too, can be the victims.

Until and unless this is achieved, accidents will continue to happen.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2018, with the headline 'Robust safety regime should be second nature to all soldiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe