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Military Training Accidents and the Lessons that Need to be Learned

I was very saddened to hear about the tragic events on Salisbury Plain last week where 20 British and Indian soldiers were injured whilst on a joint training exercise.

My thoughts go out to the injured soldiers and I hope they make a speedy recovery.

Such joint training exercises aim to train soldiers in as close to realistic combat conditions as possible. It is said that, during the Salisbury Plain training exercise, the soldiers were staging the clearing of a village containing insurgents.

It’s also said that the collision occurred as it was coming to last light of the day. The troop carriers were travelling on rough and uneven ground that was covered in cracks – so this, together with the low light, makes tough driving conditions for all but the most experienced military vehicle drivers.

A Third of All Military Accidents are Training Accidents

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) released their Health and Safety Statistics Report which confirmed that, in 2014, 38% of seriously injured soldiers were hurt in training exercises.

This is far too high a percentage and, in my mind, raises questions about how safe our soldiers are during their training.

The MoD say that they have risk assessments and safety rules in place for all their training exercises, but it’s not clear to those outside of the armed forces what exactly these are.

Now, I would agree with anyone who argues that our armed forces should be properly – and sometimes rigorously – trained for all the dangers and challenges that they could face during combat. What I don’t agree with is when this argument is used to excuse the MoD for breaches of its duty of care toward our military personnel.

The ongoing inquest into the death of three SAS soldiers during a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons has also recently brought this argument to light. These soldiers died in the summer heat during a selection process that is just as perilous in the winter months – an army captain died in January 2013 when he took part in a training exercise in freezing conditions on a snow-covered mountain.

Urgent Review of Ministry of Defence Safety Procedures Required

The inquest into the Brecon Beacons tragedy is ongoing and, regarding the accident on Salisbury Plain, the Army has confirmed that there will be a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident.

I believe this is only right and proper and, if it is found that the accident was caused by human error, vehicle or equipment failings, the MoD could be held responsible.

Members of the British Armed Forces who sustain injuries on training exercises have the same right to make a personal injury claim as civilian employees who are injured in accidents at work. Soldiers injured in training often find that their lives are changed forever. Some of them also suffer serious psychological effects as their injuries can mean they can no longer do the things they have trained for years to do. It’s so important that they get the help and support they need to get their lives back on track.

In the meantime, I urge the MoD to review their safety procedures in light of recent training accidents and do their utmost to ensure both the safety of our armed forces when they are on training, and that they are properly prepared and equipped for whatever training they are required to do.

Zoe Sutton is a Senior Associate Lawyer specialising in military accident claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation to evaluate the circumstances of a military accident injury claim. Call our No Win, No Fee Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.

Immediate legal representation and rehabilitation support are available from anywhere in the UK.

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