Week's Top Letter #1: Deploy more independent safety observers

More often than not, soldiers from a particular unit or vocation are so familiar with their training protocols and surroundings that they may not realise that certain procedures pose danger.
More often than not, soldiers from a particular unit or vocation are so familiar with their training protocols and surroundings that they may not realise that certain procedures pose danger.PHOTO: ST FILE

Reading the report on the death of another Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldier brought about a sense of deja vu (SAF to study how to make further safety improvements; Jan 25).

There was the same assurance from the SAF, that it is taking a safety time-out to allow units to review safety protocols and procedures.

As a layman, I'm not convinced that this will be any different from previous reviews. Perhaps it is time for the SAF to take a stiffer approach to reviewing safety.

As I watched the Ministry of Defence's (Mindef) video showing the gun barrel lowering, it alarmed me that several people are allowed inside the small cabin while the barrel is being lowered.

I am sure that there are safety protocols on managing movement in the cabin while the barrel is being lowered, but should there even be people inside the cabin in the first place given the potential danger?

The adage "Familiarity breeds complacency" is usually the root issue in any safety lapse.

Perhaps Mindef should deploy more safety observers across the SAF who do not come from that unit, or perform that vocation, to observe all training procedures to pick up potential dangers.

More often than not, soldiers from a particular unit or vocation are so familiar with their training protocols and surroundings that they may not realise that certain procedures pose danger.

And all it takes is a momentary lapse for a fatality to happen.

A person unfamiliar with a unit or vocation will probably spot potentially dangerous situations better.

The safety observers should err on the cautious side when they make their recommendations but the commanders can make the final call whether changes in protocol will compromise operational readiness.

For example, in this case, as a casual observer, I would have asked if it were absolutely necessary for the men to be in the cabin as the barrel was being lowered, and if there should be safety bars around the area where the barrel moves downwards to reduce chances of mishaps.

Alvin Hang Woei Yau