Anything But Regular: Mr Chandra, Assistant Director (Governance), Army Safety Inspectorate

Anything But Regular: Mr Chandra, Assistant Director (Governance), Army Safety Inspectorate

This week, we speak to Mr Chandra, Assistant Director, Safety Governance, Army Safety Inspectorate (ASI), on safety in the Army.

Before his current appointment in ASI, Mr Chandra served as a Guards Officer since 1999. He retired as a Major and continued his career with the SAF as a Defence Executive Officer (DXO). He has previously served as a company trainer in 1 PDF, Training Centre, and Safety Training Officer in General Staff Inspectorate, where he conducted Safety Training for Army Commanders.

Mr Chandra's vast experiences in conducting safety courses, audits, and sharing safety knowledge with soldiers has turned into a spark of passion for him to deep-dive into the field of safety. Mr Chandra quotes, "Any small effort in safety will contribute towards saving a life and avoiding any unnecessary incidents on the ground."

Mr Chandra works closely with the Divisions/ Formations and Departments to strengthen safety governance

Could you share how your time in your previous SAF appointments has helped you with your current appointment?

I had served as a Company Trainer in 1 PDF Training Centre, and was also a National Service (NS) S3 of a Guards Battalion. I have gained a lot of practical, hands-on experience as a company trainer and an NS S3. At the Army level, where we design safety rules and regulations, my past experiences have enabled me to envisage exactly how these rules and regulations could be implemented on the ground and how they can affect the ground when implemented. It allows me to better appreciate how the safety rules and requirements should be written as an enabler instead of becoming hurdles to ground Units and Commanders.

Conducting Risk assessment at the new Urban Ops Live Firing Facility (UOLF), Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA).

How has your work experience been with Army Safety Inspectorate (ASI)?

Over the years, I had the privilege of working with many Head ASIs and different ASI teams. It was an honour to have served many Head ASIs, to understand their philosophies on leadership and safety management, and to share my take on safety with them. It has also been an enjoyable experience to work with both senior and junior colleagues who are committed to keeping our Army safe and under the leadership of our current Hd ASI, COL Mohammed Feroz, ASI has embarked on a series of team building and team learning to bring the team closer in achieving a common goal for our Army - which is to keep our Army safe.

The current Team ASI

Could you share more on the Army's Safety System?

Our Army's Safety System ensures that safety is systemically integrated into everything we do. It supports and strengthens our Army operations, training, and organised activities by mitigating or removing unnecessary risks, providing safeguards against risks, and developing crisis response procedures should an incident occur. It is based on standard procedures designed to manage risk systematically and methodically in all work processes, swiftly investigate causal factors should an incident occur, and build a safe culture through open reporting of incidents and sharing lessons learnt.

Mr Chandra and his coursemates at the US Ground Safety Officers Course

How do you think our Army could strengthen its Safety Culture even further?

As the Army moves towards shaping safe behaviours and attitudes, the Army Safety Inspectorate (ASI) has been paying more attention to behavioural science. To identify and correct soldiers' at-risk behaviours, ASI psychologists worked closely with the Defence Psychology Department (DPD) to conduct behavioural insight studies. ASI also continues to enhance safety education and training. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and NUS to upskill our safety professionals through an accredited safety behavioural science course, and have also implemented an Observation and Intervention package for junior commanders.

Our efforts in promoting a strong safety culture has seen an increase in timely Open Reporting over the past two years, with 94% of reports submitted within 24 hours. We have also established a just culture guide to give our Army clarity and confidence to pursue a more robust safety culture. To continue strengthening our Safety Culture, we need the whole Army to be on board with our Safety efforts. We must also continue to upskill ourselves in the knowledge of Safety and Health. Building a culture takes time. Together, I believe our Army will gradually but surely become even Stronger in Safety.

Mr Chandra at the Safety and Health Expo in 2018 at London.

What are some highlights in your career/ appointment that made it memorable?

I made many memorable contributions to the organisation. When I was in active service, I was honoured to be part of the Aide-De-Camp Core Group to the Singapore President, from 2003 to 2014.

ADC to former Singapore President Dr Tony Tan, 2003-2014

I also had the opportunity to serve in several appointments at ASI. As a Safety Training Officer, I curated the Army's Safety Training Syllabus and Safety Manual. I also conducted audits and inspections on operational readiness and major events, such as the National Day Parade, Army Half Marathon, and Army Open House. I have also organised and conducted numerous Army Safety Days and Exhibitions. In 2022, I was awarded the Pingkat Bakti Setia (PBS) – Military.

In my current appointment as AD (Governance), I oversee the management of the Training Safety Regulations (TSR). I have helped to develop standard nomenclatures for TSR sections and organised the monthly Army Safety Board meetings. I also helped to benchmark our Army's safety system internationally with some of our training counterparts such as US, UK and Australia, as well as local agencies such as MOM and the WSH Council. I find it extremely enriching and fulfilling to conduct safety-sharing sessions with various governmental and military organisations, including the Brunei Armed Forces, Bahrain Defence Forces, Philippines Armed Forces, and Qatar Armed Forces.

A group photo of Mr Chandra with his UN Staff Officer coursemates in Sweden

Mr Chandra received the PSB (Military) award for his 25 years of service and outstanding performance within the SAF

What motivated you to pursue academic certifications related to safety? Any advice for those deciding to pursue further education while in the Army?

Fundamentally, I want to enhance my credibility when I conduct safety training and audits. I also realised that it was crucial to obtain better qualifications while I was in uniform to prepare myself better for career opportunities post-retirement. Hence, I embarked on an educational "re-start" at age 42 in 2006. Although I qualified to enrol in the degree programme based on my academic background and work experience, I decided to give myself time to obtain a diploma first to better prepare myself for the degree programme. From there, it was a focused endeavour which allowed me to achieve an NTU Masters, thanks to SAF's LEAP programme and sponsorship.

My advice to young regulars of both the WOSPEC and Officers Corp, is to never give up on pursuing higher academic qualifications during your Army career. I know it is not going to be easy. It was also tough for me to manage my family, work, and studies simultaneously. I remembered at times, studying until the wee hours, still needing to prepare my girls for school the next day, and going to work after sending my daughter. My wife was also working the night shift as a Nurse back then. Support from my colleagues and superiors has helped me tremendously. To me, there is no better time to further your studies and I have absolutely no regrets.

Mr Chandra receiving the University Of Newcastle, Bachelor Environmental & Occupational Health & Safety (BENvOHS) in 2009

Mr Chandra receiving the NTU (NIE), Master of Arts (Education Management) in 2013

What makes your job/ appointment #AnythingButRegular?

Being in the Army and having the opportunities to serve many different appointments is already an #AmythingButRegular experience. Having the opportunity to work in a field that promotes safety and safeguard the well-being of our soldiers is a dream come true for me. This is a truly meaningful and fulfilling, #AnythingButRegular experience.

Visit to US CRC to understand their safety system

✍🏻: PTE Benjamin Tan (Army News)

📸: CPL Hong Soo Yong (Army News) and contributed by Mr Chandra