The phone rings double quick time, and here I am literally taking a dive to pick that call up. On the other line it’s a call from the Defence services, and the e-mail that I got requesting for a Team building program came from a Hotmail account. I am told in a stoic monotone that the use of the official e-mail address is restrictive in their work environment. Yeah right!!

Well, it’s a request from the folks in the Airforce asking for a Team building program proposal. They have always requested for a training program on the cheap, and chances are given a choice, I think they would rather do it themselves. Like this session that went horribly wrong on the 24th April 2009, for an Air force technician 2nd Warrant Officer Poh Eng Ann (2WO Poh).

artcle1 scaled RSAF Team building program gone wrong

The activities that were done

The activities described in this event, surprised even me. 2 teams with 4 servicemen went through games that involved penalties such as drinking alcoholic drinks mixed with wasabi. 2WO Poh was even tasked to tunnel crawl through the F-5 fighter jet engine air duct that spans over a distance of 5.18m. Upon finishing that crawl he was required to eat fried grasshoppers, crickets and maggots. All this in a guise of a regular, informal annual event organized for all newly promoted servicemen with the RSAF. The outcome of that stunt was the untimely death of 2WO Poh, due to the rupture of his pliable liver. It took the death of this servicemen and the coroner enquiry to bring this incident to the public domain.

artcle21 scaled RSAF Team building program gone wrong

It is quite common for individuals who are not practitioners of outdoor adventure learning to get their que from watching the popular TV series Survivor, or Fear Factor to design activities for Team building sessions. The requirement to ensure the activities are safe is usually thrown out of the window. It becomes even more dangerous when you have the following brew in the design of an outdoor activity;

Having a ridiculously low budget
Undertaking high risk activity with low costing is a perfect concoction for a mishap waiting to rear its ugly head
Not undertaking a risk assessment of the activities that are designed
Insurance are not taken for the participants. Usually insurers will not insure activities that have been described above

Having conducted the team building activities for MNC’s and government agencies, we have always made sure that the safety requirements of both the participants and the facilitators are accorded the highest priority. When a request is made to provide a team building program at a ridiculously low cost, we usually decline. We have worked with officers from the Ministry of Home Affairs to corporate bankers and the approach has always been the same. Keeping the activities coherent, ensuring risk assessment for all activities are checked and mitigated, and lastly, lodging our program synopsis with our corporate insurers before any training program that is categorized as moderately high is conducted. For a safe training session in the outdoors that is steeped in learning and organizational performance do get in touch with us at Teamwork Bound on this e-mail or +65 6315 2586. The call from RSAF, we don’t dive to pick up that call anymore.


Chong, E. and Chow, J. (2011, October 13). Crawl through jet turns deadly for technician. The Straits Times, pp. A3

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About the Author: Ebnu Etheris Ma.IDT, B.Hrd

02ac2a08cbd3a3917203a1586084a30b?s=72&d=mm&r=g RSAF Team building program gone wrong
Ebnu Etheris, holds a Masters degree in Instructional Design and was part of the pioneering team of executives who saw through the start up of Singapore’s first Budget Airline, Valuair. He was responsible for developing the airline’s Crisis planning systems and initiating blended learning in Flight operations. He works as a Partner with Teamworkbound.

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