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.
Three reservists fell ill while on a training march in temperatures that reached 27C and with little opportunity to fill their water bottles. Two of the reservists died during the exercise, while the third suffered multiple organ failure (as a result of hyperthermia) and died some weeks later.
The HSE investigation found a failure to plan, assess and manage risks associated with climatic illness during the training.
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.
Without Crown immunity, the MoD would have faced prosecution for the failings identified. Although there is no financial penalty associated with a Crown censure, it is an official record of a failing to comply with the law and the equivalent of a criminal prosecution.
The HSE 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.”