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HSE to administer Crown Censure to MoD over Brecon Beacons training exercise deaths

Date:
2 March 2016

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 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. 

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.” 

Notes to Editors 

  1. The breach of law the Censure is being issued over is: Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.” 
  2. The MoD cannot face prosecution in the same way as non-Government bodies and a Crown Censure is the maximum sanction for a government body that HSE can bring. There is no financial penalty associated with Crown Censure, but once accepted is an official record of a failing to meet the standards set out in law. 
  3. More information on Crown Censures can be found here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/enforce/enforcementguide/investigation/approving-enforcement.htm 
  4. The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out the principles for prosecutors to follow when they make enforcement decisions. HSE’s approach to Crown Censure is set out in its enforcement policy statement

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