Emergency stop button drills now mandatory for howitzer crew

A Committee of Inquiry set up to probe the death of Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang found that lapses on the part of all three servicemen in the howitzer cabin at that time led to the incident.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen
A Committee of Inquiry set up to probe the death of Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang found that lapses on the part of all three servicemen in the howitzer cabin at that time led to the incident.
A Committee of Inquiry set up to probe the death of Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang found that lapses on the part of all three servicemen in the howitzer cabin at that time led to the incident.

Other measures taken in the wake of COI findings include bold markings showing howitzer's safe, hazardous areas

All crew of the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) now have to practise emergency stop button drills before operating the platform.

Bold markings to indicate areas that are safe and potentially hazardous have also been put up in the SSPH.

In addition, army technicians now have to go through a nine-step drill before their maintenance training and tasks so that any potential risks are reviewed, dry runs are conducted, and roles and responsibilities are clarified.

These measures were announced by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament yesterday as he shared the findings of the independent Committee of Inquiry (COI) set up to investigate the death of Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang, 28.

An armament technician from the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery, CFC Pang died four days after suffering serious injury during Exercise Thunder Warrior in New Zealand on Jan 19 this year.

Dr Ng said: "We need a strong SAF that can defend Singapore, but it must and can be built up without compromising the safety and well-being of our national servicemen."

"The SAF is committed to continue strengthening its safety systems at all levels, down to our soldiers, aircrew and sailors," he added.

NO COMPROMISE ON SAFETY

We need a strong SAF that can defend Singapore, but it must and can be built up without compromising the safety and well-being of our national servicemen. The SAF is committed to continue strengthening its safety systems at all levels, down to our soldiers, aircrew and sailors.

DEFENCE MINISTER NG ENG HEN

 
 
 
 

The COI found that lapses on the part of all three servicemen in the SSPH cabin at that time led to the incident.

The SSPH, which is operated by a crew of four, has three emergency stop buttons, which are located within reach of the gun commander, charge loader and ammo loader.

As part of a trial with a few units, safety advocates have been appointed to gather and give feedback to commanders so that any safety issues can be identified and addressed early.

Another new measure is to have all army soldiers, including operationally ready national servicemen, take an annual safety test that was previously required only of commanders and trainers. These tests will be customised according to the experience level of the soldiers and training activities that they undergo.

The chairman of the External Review Panel on SAF Safety, Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, who is director of MMA Offshore, said that there was a need for greater emphasis on maintenance safety, to match the focus on training safety.

He said that in some cases, operations and maintenance people work together in the field for exercises. "Because of the different vocations, you may end up with a riskier situation. Hence, there is a need to see how best to manage such situations where people of different trades work together."

Last week, the media was invited to observe maintenance trainees practising how to remove a generator from a power pack taken from a Bionix vehicle. They had to undergo a safety drill, called Think-Check-Do, to ensure they are clear about the task.

Military Expert 5 Lawrence Ng, 39, commanding officer of the Ordnance Engineering Training Institute Engineering School, said trainees undergo 12 weeks of technical training at the school, with an emphasis on safety.

"I believe in zero accidents. On my end, I engage my trainers and trainees actively. And I imbue in them this mindset that zero accident is possible... With the Think-Check-Do drill enforced, I believe we can achieve that," said ME5 Ng, who oversees all army engineer training.

ME3 Dan Lu Siang, 39, a trainer at the Ordnance Engineering Training Institute, ensures his trainees do not take shortcuts. "We allow the trainees to clarify on the rationale of why the maintenance manual is being written this way. If we realise that there's a better way, we will write in for approval to change the technical manual."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Emergency stop button drills now mandatory for howitzer crew'. Print Edition | Subscribe