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Ten years on from the deaths of SAS reservists on the Brecon Beacons are heat injuries still a problem in the British Military?

This month marked the tenth anniversary of the sad passing of three SAS reservists on Bannau Brycheiniog - Brecon Beacons - who suffered extreme heat stroke following a 16-mile weighted speed march. 

Following the incident on 13 July, 2013, Birmingham and Solihull coroner Louise Hunt was highly critical of how the march led to the deaths of the three reservists, noting that there was a catalogue of very serious mistakes made by many people within the Ministry of Defence (MoD), including significant failings which negligently contributed to the deaths.

Revised Joint Service Publication on Heat Illness and Cold Injury

The revised Joint Service Publication (JSP) 539 on Heat Illness and Cold Injury was implemented in 2013, with the aim of minimising the risk to service personnel of climatic injuries, such as heat illness and cold injury, whilst on training exercises and operations. 

Despite this, Louise Hunt pointed to JSP 539 within her report on the Bannau Brycheiniog case, stating that 13 soldiers who had given evidence at the inquest, said they had no knowledge of this document.

Even after the introduction of JSP539 the number of recorded heat illnesses remains high. For example in 2015-16 there were 103 counts of recorded heat illnesses suffered by personnel within the British Army. This is a high number considering that there should be procedures in place to prevent such incidences from occurring.

Has anything really changed? 

Heat injuries cover a wide range of conditions where service people are injured, due to being pushed to extremes in military training exercises. It's necessary for service personnel to train appropriately but precautions must always be taken by the MoD and those in charge of personnel to minimise the risk of personnel suffering injury. This is the whole purpose of JSP539 and the regulations put in place by it.

More than 230 heat related incidents

Reports say that in the last round of statistics from 2021-22, there were 230 heat related incidents.

The increase in heat related cases to 230 in 2021-22 is evidence that this remains an issue for military personnel in a training environment.

With current unprecedented high temperatures, it's pivotal that the MoD look at implementing the regulations in a more effective way; this includes training personnel adequately on the signs and symptoms of heat injuries and reacting to reports of symptoms indicative of this type of injury.

We would always urge people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat injuries and how these symptoms can be combatted.

Irwin Mitchell have supported a large number of service personnel who have suffered a heat injury. We continue to help and support, service personnel who have suffered these life-altering injuries by first and foremost helping them get the treatment they require and assisting with their claim.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping armed forces personnel   who have been impacted by heat injuries, alongside other injuries at our dedicated military injuries section