Thursday, November 25, 2004

Fan Mail and Thoughts on Safety

Dear Mr Gabriel,

I refer to your entry dated June 2003 (i think) in which you proposed several safety slogans for SAF including "Be safe, don't train".

I hope to place this slogan up on the camp's notice board as the safety slogan of the month and would like to request that your permission be given. I would also like to ask if you would like due attribution to be given?

As part of a knowledge management team in SAF, I am now involved in the unit's creativity drive. I would aslo like to thank you as your website has inspired my poster for the drive featuring the slogan 'Practise creativity! Non-compliance will be severely dealt with'.

Thank you for your time.

*** ***
Indentured Slave

Really, I feel that the flurry of activity in the SAF with regards to safety is useless. At the top levels, committees convene and reviews are carried out. People come down to check compliance to safety procedures more often. And at ground level, people are forced to implement more useless measures for show - for example, signing more forms so higher-ups are covered and taking ridiculously-easy tests on Training Safety Regulations (as if knowing the regulations means you'll follow them). Perhaps the most ridiculous example: For a minor activity like Company Games, one particularly farcical "safety hazard" printed on the administrative instructions as this - "Serviceman is hit by frisbee".

Worse: in their desire for appearances for appearances' sake, some people like to get medics to open their stretchers and place them on the safety rover. Never mind that it is very very rare that a casualty needs to be stretchered, but opening the stretcher reduces the capacity of the rover by more than half. If there is somebody in it to man the signal set, and an insulator of ice to boot, then there isn't any space left for seated casualties. Furthermore, in the event that a casualty needs to be put on the stretcher, it takes more time to get the stretcher out of the confines of the rover than the open it from its closed configuration. The blind adherence to and fanatical obsession with hastily and poorly thought out safety regulations thus paradoxically makes training less safe.

And of course, safety is often used as an excuse to oppress slaves. For example, once we were moving a great deal of bunk furniture (for the third time in 8 months or so, but that is another story), and many of us had removed our shirts due to the heat. Our stand-in CSM came along and told us to put on our shirts because it was a "safety" issue - without them we'd "get scratched". As if the shirts would protect us much against scratches anyway. And what about the greater risk of heat stroke? Would that not have been more of a safety hazard than scratches? This faux concern with safety was merely a way to oppress us slaves because we hadn't gotten permission from higher-ups to remove our shirts. So much for being Thinking Soldiers (what an oxy-moron).

The concern of the SAF for the lives of slaves is laudable (even if largely motivated by fear of public scandal) but regardless of the final result, all they are doing is trying to ameliorate the symptoms and not attacking the root of the problem - the culture of the SAF. A culture which prizes rank over ability and intelligence. A culture of fear and regimentation. A culture which discourages thinking and encourages the blind following of orders, no matter how brainless or immoral. Ultimately, the culture and tradition, built up over 37 years, of an unnecessary conscription which enslaves the flower of our youth and proceeds to dehumanise them.

Now here are some of the odder Safety Slogans and Posters I saw before I got my parole:

Safety is everyday. It doesn't have a holiday (???)

Sign at 20th Singapore Artillery: "Safety habits need to be grilled". Wth?!

"Danger could strikes anytime"

"The hands of time can never be turned. What's done cannot be undone. Regrets should not be part of a soldiers' life. Follow safety regulations." Funny, that reminds me of the saga of my slavery.

Due to the Army's obsession with safety (which at least is better than neglecting it), on a few occasions we were forced to come up with Safety Slogans. Some of my choice ones (inspired by the gems above):

- Be safe, don't train
- Don't run, no sprain
- Know your limits. Downgrade.

[The above was cobbled together from previous posts, and so may not be as coherent as it should. But then I still have 2 exams, so.]

Addendum: This safety slogan is enlightening - "Nothing we do in peacetime warrants unnecessary risk of life"


- There is a necessary risk of life during peace. But how much is necessary?
- What the SAF does in war can warrant unnecessary risk of life

1 comment:

nemesis said...

Hmm... someone told me that the WO and specialists and below are not meant to think. The Thinking Soldier refers to the Officer. So "if you want to think, then be an officer", coz' "if everyone starts thinking, then everywhere will be chaotic". Dunno how much truth this carries though... =)