Saturday, May 26, 2018

We follow orders or people die


Two days ago, the Straits Times carried a report on the measures that the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) is introducing to prevent accidents like the one that led to the  death of NSF Cpl Kok Yuen Chin. Meantime a board of inquiry has been convened to look into this incident.



This article reminds me of the famous courtroom scene from the movie, A Few Good Men. In this scene, Col. Nathan Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson said something that I thought was very relevant to the tragic incident at the SCDF, as well as the Pasir Ris MRT track accident in 2016 and even the Bishan MRT tunnel flooding incident last year. He said; “We follow orders or people die!”

These accidents happened simply because people ignored orders or did not follow procedures. Hence, I believe that any investigation into such accidents has to go beyond looking at procedures and human actions. They have to look at the work culture in the organisation. Do the people there have a “you can do anything; just don’t get caught” mentality?

We have to get to the root cause. If the main cause is people ignoring the orders of their superiors, or not following safety procedures, then we have to understand why.
  • Were they simply too lazy; and ‘bo chap’?
  • Do they have no fear or respect for their bosses?
  • Are they exhausted with too much work, and think that these procedures were a waste of time? If this was the case, then wouldn’t adding more procedures make matters worse?

I remember a case from my own NS days in the 1970s. To the best of my recollection this was what happened. There was an accident involving a soldier who was sleeping under a three-tonner; and he was killed when the vehicle moved off before he could ‘escape’. After that, one of the new procedures that was implemented was that the driver had to check under the three-tonner each time he was about to drive off. Needless to say, very few people followed that procedure.

I also feel that our newspapers ought to carry out some ‘investigative reporting’ when it comes to such a serios matter. They should review past accidents and results of the BOI enquiries. Just how effective have their recommendations been? I am not being cynical, but judging from the frequency of these tragedies; I suspect they have not been very effective.

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Regarding your suggestion that our newspapers carry out "investigative reporting". I recall that our Great Leader did not allow it, hence you don't see it done. Otherwise this country would be better governed that it is today.

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