SINGAPORE - Servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) can now take photos in camps and training areas using their personal devices, but with one catch - they may do so only to report a safety hazard using a new smartphone app.
Called SafeGuardian, the app is the latest of several improvements the SAF has made to its safety processes, and aligns with the recommendations of the second External Review Panel on SAF Safety (ERPSS), which ended its three-year term last year.
The first ERPSS was formed in 2013 to validate safety practices in the SAF and determine if they match up with best practices of industries and other armed forces. Each ERPSS is typically convened for a three-year term.
On Thursday (July 15), the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) announced the improvements, which includes the practice of appointing "safety advocates" - servicemen who gather safety concerns and feedback from their peers and relay them to their commanders.
The second ERPSS provided a range of feedback and improvement areas to the SAF, and many of the recommendations have since been implemented, said Mindef.
"Of significance was the importance of encouraging open reporting of hazards and near-misses that can be translated into key learning opportunities for servicemen," it added.
The roll-out of the SafeGuardian application began in mid-June and is being progressively expanded to the rest of the SAF.
As at last Thursday, more than 60 per cent of the hazards reported through the app have been resolved.
Commanders in the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) have been using the app since June 28.
Second-Lieutenant Shah Divya Vipulkumar, a platoon commander in BMTC, said the app has proven handy for commanders who may need a quick refresher on safety regulations.
He added that the app also alerts those who are in the vicinity of reported hazards.
Giving an example, 2LT Shah said: "Maybe there's a tree that has fallen over on a very important evacuation route. So, if we can immediately report it on the SafeGuardian app, other nearby units can be alerted about it so that they can find an alternative path."
2LT Shah said the SafeGuardian apps allows safety issues to be acted on more quickly compared with previous reporting methods, where servicemen had to report hazards to their immediate commanders, who would then lodge a report on their behalf. A photo of the issue would previously have to be snapped using a unit-approved camera.
Mindef said previously that photos taken on the new reporting app will be confined within the app, and will not be accessible via a phone's gallery, thus allaying security concerns.
Recruit Yeow Dao Xing, who has been a safety advocate for group of about 30 servicemen for two weeks, said he has felt involved in the conduct of training programmes, as commanders would seek his feedback on safety concerns before, during and after activities.
He cited a recent Individual Physical Proficiency Test, where he alerted commanders to safety pins that were left on a parade square, which were removed before the test started.
Apart from improving feedback channels, the SAF said it is also improving the knowledge of its safety officers by engaging external agencies to conduct courses.
Besides internal courses developed by each uniformed service, officers holding safety appointments are tasked to acquire external Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) qualifications.
Depending on the officers' job scope, these may include courses on working at heights, or implementing risk management plans.
Each service also conducts safety forums chaired by their safety committees to discuss safety data trends, share best practices and discuss measures to manage occupational health matters, with such sessions typically held once per month.
Some SAF safety appointment holders also attend the Singapore WSH Conference, held once every two years.
"This allows them to gain a better understanding of industry standards and determine areas of improvement for in-house training," said Mindef.
On Thursday, the third ERPSS, which started its three-year term on Feb 10 this year, made its first field visit to the BMTC on Pulau Tekong.
The 12-member panel were briefed on the BMTC's safe management measures against Covid-19 and visited the Tekong 100m range, where they observed recruits undergoing basic shooting training.
After the visit, chairman of the panel Heng Chiang Gnee said that in his years of involvement with the ERPSS, he has seen the SAF constantly improve its safety processes.
He was a member of the first panel in 2013 and chaired the second in 2017.
"The level of maturity in the safety management system in the SAF is among (that of) leading private sector companies. I would say that the SAF is up there," said Mr Heng, a director with marine company MMA Offshore.
He added that building a culture of safety is important to sustain good performance.
"I do not believe an organisation would dare to claim that it has reached the summit. There will always be things that you can do to improve."
Mr Heng said it is also important not to get complacent, adding that this could be prevented by having periodic briefings on past accidents.