Military regulations are clear that heat injury is largely preventable and that making sure it does not happen is a management issue. If unnecessary injury does occur the military has failed in its duty of care.
Our expert solicitors can help you bring a claim if you have suffered a heat injury through negligence. We usually work on a no-win, no-fee basis, so please contact us today.
Training, exercises and safety
The military has a duty to protect service personnel against heat injury. This means ensuring that training and other exercises are carried out safely, and that service personnel are:
- Given the tools and training to recognise and protect themselves against injury
- Able to carry out their duties in reasonable temperatures and/or conditions
- Given plenty of water and sufficient breaks
- Not required to undertake excessive physical labour in hot and dry conditions
- Provided with the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), clothing and shelter
- Regularly monitored for signs of heat injury
- Appropriately and safely treated if they report or show the signs of heat injury
- Encouraged to put their own and their comrades’ safety first
When the military fail to carry out these duties it can result in unnecessary suffering for service personnel.
How is heat injury caused?
Heat injury occurs when the body’s core temperature rises above normal. Usually the condition arises in hot conditions, particularly when service personnel undertake tough physical exercise outdoors.
It is wrong to assume, however, that it only happens in hot climates: heat injury has affected service personnel in the UK who were exercising without sufficient drinking water, or when wearing inappropriate clothing.
Heat injury escalates very quickly and can at its most serious lead to coma, organ failure and, eventually, death. However, the treatment can be relatively straightforward: the person at risk should stop exercise, find shade, be cooled down with a fan or water and rehydrated.
Military regulations state that instructors and senior staff should evacuate personnel who may be in the early stages of heat injury. These regulations are not always followed correctly and in these circumstances a claim for negligence may be appropriate.
Symptoms of overheating
Even moderate heat injury can leave soldiers suffering with long term problems, such as an inability of the body to regulate its own temperature, and psychological injuries related to the exposure. These types of injuries can have a profound impact on a service person’s life and career.
Unless the whole unit, from top to bottom, understands the symptoms of overheating, prevention will be impossible. Symptoms include:
- High body temperature
- Rapid breathing
- Quickened heart rate
- Muscle cramps
- Confusion or agitation
- Staggering and collapse
- Loss of coordination
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
- Seizures (as the nervous system cannot work without water)
Bolt Burdon Kemp’s experience is that the best preventative measure is education. Unfortunately, many of our clients tell us that the military did not provide them, their chain of command or medical attendants, with sufficient knowledge and training.
If you think you have suffered heat injury as a result of your service, you should contact your medical Officer (MO) or GP immediately.
Duty of care
The MoD understands that it has a duty of care to prevent heat injury, and that it should be a management issue. Its own guidance states:
“Each year there are significant impacts on health and sometimes deaths as a result of heat and cold injuries amongst Service personnel, in the UK and overseas. These are nearly all preventable, provided the risk factors are assessed properly and appropriately managed.
“This prevention requires greater awareness of the risk by commanders at all levels, training in assessment of the risk and putting in place the right control measures. In addition, the impact of a climatic injury may be reduced if appropriate first aid measures and evacuation to medical care are carried out effectively and promptly.”
Making a claim for heat injury
Heat injury can be easily avoided, particularly with the right training. However, if you have been affected by heat injury, then get in touch with our expert team to discuss making a claim. Time limits apply for negligence claims, so contact us today.