Why training safety at HTA is crucial for Singapore

The corporate university of the Home Team relies on innovation, inspections and audits to protect trainees who will play a key role in the country’s security

Officers and trainers at the Home Team Academy (HTA) take training safety very seriously. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

When senior officer trainee Rachel Lim undergoes physical training during her ongoing course at the Home Team Academy (HTA), safety is a constant priority.

For one, her trainers at the Singapore Police Force Training Command take the trainees’ temperature before the start of each session and assess their condition verbally and visually to prevent heat-related injuries. In addition, trainees are also required to drink at least half a litre of water both during and after training.

Find out how much emphasis the Home Team Academy places on safety for all its courses and training sessions. 

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“After each session, the trainers also check if we have sustained any injuries, so we can get prompt medical attention, if necessary. All these reassure trainees like me that we’re being taken care of, and it’s safe to train in this environment,” says the 23-year-old.

The attention to detail during the training audits is just one example of HTA’s focus on training safety as it moulds future generations of police officers, firefighters, prison staff and other Home Team officers.

With the focus on training safety, trainees like senior officer trainee Rachel Lim can go about their training sessions with peace of mind. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

As the corporate university of the Home Team, HTA plays a crucial role in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ training ecosystem. It provides leading-edge training and learning programmes including leadership training, and cross-cutting skills training such as design thinking and data analytics, beyond the different departments’ operational and tradecraft training.

It conducts courses for leaders, trainers and officers from all departments and works closely with the Home Team departments to create and implement learning and training initiatives.

HTA adopts a 360-approach to training safety. Home Team Academy Chief Executive Anwar Abdullah, 57, says, “From an operational point of view, we need our training to be safe and responsible so that our trainees can go on to keep Singapore safe and secure. We also have a responsibility to the parents who have entrusted their children to us.

“We look at it holistically, ensuring that our safety regulations are current, our trainers know what to do, and we have processes to intervene quickly if incidents occur. We also focus on workplace safety.”

HTA conducts various courses, ranging from leadership programmes to cross-cutting skills training, for Home Team officers. PHOTO: HOME TEAM ACADEMY

Last January, HTA achieved the ISO 45001 certification for occupational health and safety, underlining its commitment. The certification is the world’s international standard for occupational health and safety, and helps organisations provide a healthy and safe working environment for both employees and visitors. 

Regular plus surprise inspections

To ensure that physical training is conducted safely, HTA’s Training Safety and Audit Branch (TSAB) conducts twice-weekly surprise inspections, and at least 100 inspections annually. Regularly updated safety checklists and regulations govern activities from basketball games, live-firing exercises to swimming and Individual Physical Proficiency Tests.

Mr Aliff Hurairah Abu Jalal (in black) from the training safety and audit branch ensures that all training at HTA is carried out in a safe manner. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

TSAB training executive Aliff Hurairah Abu Jalal, 33, says, “The goal is to work with the trainers to identify gaps, rectify mistakes and further elevate the training in a manner that is safe, efficient and effective.”

The TSAB also carries out cross-departmental and system improvement audits for high-risk activities, such as fire, firearms and physically strenuous training, and collects data on injuries to find ways to reduce them.

The audits are conducted to analyse and compare existing safety measures across various Home Team departments, so that best practices and areas for improvements are highlighted.

Audits also ensure that HTA’s in-house medical capabilities are able to provide sufficient coverage and render immediate and effective intervention, should incidents occur.

Mr Aliff cites an example. “After we had an increase in spectacle-related injuries, we updated the general safety instructions so that those who participate in contact activities are advised to remove their spectacles to prevent cuts to their eyes and face during the activities,” he explains.

HTA will look to replace existing exercise mats in the dojos with firmer ones to prevent foot injuries. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

To keep abreast of the latest developments in training safety, training safety documents for high-risk activities are reviewed yearly. Documents for non-high-risk activities are assessed every three years.

The TSAB also convenes a Training Safety - Areas of Commonality Team, with representatives from different Home Team agencies, to share data, best practices and insights into incidents. The team meets every six months.

Chief Executive Mr Anwar says, “By collecting more data, we can alert trainers to take action to prevent injuries, and better analyse incidents to avoid them in future. We want to have zero fatalities and injuries that occur due to negligence.”

Exploring new ideas

As HTA strives to improve training safety, innovation and the use of technology are key.

Mr Anwar explains, “Technology has enhanced both our training safety tools and processes. Our Live Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) panel project, for instance, helps to prevent heat-related injuries. We are also looking into embracing sensors in the future as part of being a smart campus.”

HTA worked with the National Environment Agency to develop the WBGT panel, which can provide live information to trainers to prevent heat injuries. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

The WBGT, developed and launched in 2019 by TSAB, is a display panel at the HTA’s running track. It allows trainers to properly assess the environmental conditions and modify activities to avoid heat-related injuries.

This is in addition to HTA’s lightning warning system that detects lightning activity and alerts all trainers and trainees when it is not safe to train outdoors.

The WBGT takes into account the ambient temperature, sunlight, wind speed and humidity to estimate the effect of heat on the human body during exercise.

The display panel is updated every 10 minutes with the latest data from the weather station in HTA and has colour-coded information for easy recognition. Mr Aliff says, “It’s very convenient for the trainers because they can just look up at the panel from the track or field.”

Since last December, for greater efficiency, physical checklists have been replaced by paperless safety audits. Mr Aliff explains: “We can conduct inspections more efficiently, and have more time for trend analysis.”

Banners are placed in multiple areas across HTA to remind everyone the importance of training safety. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

Training safety-related e-learning modules for trainers, safety campaigns and more reinforce the value of training safety. Furthermore, anyone on the HTA’s campus can report a potential safety hazard or a near-miss incident via a QR code on its ubiquitous training safety banners.

Mr Anwar says, “We want to continue to build a strong training safety culture. Since the HTA’s training involves leaders, trainers and officers across the Home Team, we have the unique role of cultivating shared values and principles, so that everyone works together to provide better service to the public.”

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