40% fewer heat injury cases in SAF since NSF Dave Lee's death in 2018: Mindef

SINGAPORE – The number of heat injury cases in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has declined by 40 per cent in the past two years, and there have been no cases of heatstroke, said the Ministry of Defence on Thursday (Sept 24).

Since the death of Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee from heatstroke in 2018, the SAF has also introduced enhancements to existing heat injury management and prevention measures, added Mindef.

These include implementing a simplified evacuation protocol; improving heat injury awareness for commanders and medics; enhancing existing cooling and heat injury prevention measures; and strengthening an open reporting culture.

“Mindef and the SAF will continue to review and identify ways to strengthen our safety management and training system, with the goal of achieving zero training fatalities,” it added.

CFC Lee, 19, a full-time national serviceman who was a guardsman from the 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, suffered a heatstroke after completing an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp on April 18, 2018. He died on April 30 that year.

In the same statement on Thursday, Mindef said that six servicemen who were charged in military court in relation to CFC Lee’s death were fined for their roles in the incident.

A seventh serviceman was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in January this year after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. He died on Feb 13.

The latest figures on heat injury came after the decline of such cases since 2012.

There were 25 heatstroke and 137 heat exhaustion cases in the army from April 2012 to March 2018, according to a report by an external panel in 2018. None was fatal.

The five-member panel was convened in May 2018 after CFC Lee’s death to review the SAF’s existing strategy for heat injury prevention and management.

Since August 2018, the SAF has expanded the use of an arm immersion cooling system and purpose-built cooling pads to tackle heat injury.

Arm immersion is a preventive measure where soldiers dip their arms into iced water for between 15 and 30 seconds to help cool their core body temperature, done during rest periods in training, and after training.

Purpose-built cooling pads, which can be stuck on the body, help to cool a suspected heat injury casualty.

Other measures taken in the wake of CFC Lee’s death include rolling out a new training safety regulation for all commanders and medics to evacuate every trainee who cannot respond to simple questions on time, place and identity.

More opportunities for make-up training were also provided so that soldiers would not push themselves beyond safety limits.

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