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Risk assessments to avoid military deaths

To update you, three soldiers whilst on training for an SAS selection course, died as a result of heat exhaustion.

Details can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-33167415

I have a close interest in this story as I once served in the Military and have experienced extreme (though not as extreme as the SAS Selection course) conditions and expectations in the situation mentioned.

I still teach the Military, but the problem is this: most people still see this occurrence as an acceptable risk or something that “may happen” as they are training hard for something that they need to ready for. Most people often also say “you cannot make it easier otherwise standards will slip”.

To an extent, I agree, however let me explain…

The court case has explained the following findings;

  1. In Sufficient Risk Assessment: As quoted by Prof George Havenith during the court hearing- “The risk assessment was described as “very superficial” and did not take into account humidity, radiation from the sun or the water requirements if the weather changed.”
  2. The Risk Assessment didn’t contain details of how to evacuate people quickly if they succumbed to the heat.

My Thoughts – Yes, SAS and all military staff, including the police and fire brigade need to be trained to as near as the real thing. The training MUST remain the same, if not harder. The level of training we already have, has led us to develop one of the most feared & professional forces in the world. The same ethos needs to be applied for all occupations that are in similar circumstances, as mentioned before, organisations like the Police, Fire Brigade & even prison staff.

However the safety provisions need to match the training being undertaken. Put this thought in your head…

You are about to do an organised 16 mile endurance race over the welsh mountains with around 30 people on the race. It is one of the hottest days of the year, it is also one of the most extreme tests both physically and mentally you will ever do. Are you picturing that in your head? Good.

Now answer the following questions…

  1. Would you expect the organisers to have in place suitable emergency evacuation plans & equipment before starting?
  2. If you found out that there was insufficient plans & equipment to rescue you off the mountain if you became ill would you do the race?

I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but surely, it was obvious there was a high potential for heat illnesses and surely, someone must have thought we need some more emergency precautions?

It was hot, it was a tough race and there was a high risk of heat illnesses. Simple and very basic risk assessment and the risk assessments being used as evidence in court didn’t even mention THE WATER requirements!!!!

Yet the failure in risk assessment is a common occurrence. The failure to think and consider potential outcomes…

These men deserved better treatment, the other candidates on the course deserved better. I do hope after the findings of the court are delivered that real change is made in the culture of the MOD. I do not want heads to role for this case; I believe the staff, at heart, didn’t want this to happen. I, as a professional and as a sympathetic Ex-Soldier want to see real change and acceptance that H&S is a priority.

June 26, 2015 | Categories: Lighthouse Blog |
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For further information call Lighthouse: 01634 260 631 or email: info@lighthousesafety.co.uk

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