Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

March 3, 2016

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MoD to be censured over Brecon Beacons deaths

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced it will administer a Crown Censure to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the deaths of three soldiers on a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons in July 2013.

Reservists Edward Maher, James Dunsby and Craig Roberts fell ill while on a training march. Mr Roberts and Mr Maher died during the exercise, while Mr Dunsby suffered multiple organ failure (as a result of hyperthermia) and died on 30 July 2013.

The men had been taking part in an “arduous march” in rugged terrain on the Brecon Beacons on one of the hottest days of the year. They had been trying to complete a 16-mile (26-km) march in under nine hours, carrying heavy kit, as part of the selection process to join the SAS.

The HSE investigation found a failure to plan, assess, and manage risks associated with climatic illness during the training. These failings resulted in the deaths of the three men and heat illness suffered by 10 other on the march.

Despite its Crown status, the MoD is not exempt from its responsibilities as an employer to reduce the risks to its employees as far as reasonably practicable. But for Crown immunity, the MoD would have faced prosecution for the failings identified.

A Crown Censure was the most serious punishment open to the HSE, and acts as an official record of failing to meet standards set out in law but one which has no financial penalty.

HSE head of operations Neil Craig said: “Specialist military units rightly need to test rigorously the fitness and resilience of potential candidates.  Health and safety is not about stopping people from doing dangerous work or being properly prepared for military duties. Military training is inherently hazardous. However, such testing needs to be managed effectively. The MoD has a duty to manage the risks during training exercises. It failed to do so on this occasion.

“Since the incident HSE has worked closely with the MoD to ensure it has learned lessons on how it can reduce the risk of similar tragedies occurring in future without compromising or changing the arduous nature of the essential training and testing they need to provide.”

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