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Health & Safety Training - Training for Realism

Recent news in the Telegraph covered the tragic deaths of potential SAS recruits in 2013 in the Brecon Beacons

Photo: Wales News

The deaths, due to severe heat stroke, occurred following a 16-mile selection march on one of the hottest days of the year. The coroner blamed a failure to sufficiently manage and organise the selection event – in short, health and safety risks which should have been properly identified, assessed and controlled. The event clearly sparked controversy in terms of how ‘realistic’ (in terms of physical endurance) the SAS selection process should be.

This brings to mind the question of how realistic training or selection sessions should be. Having spent many years as the health and safety lead in a law enforcement organisation, I have firm views that training sessions for officers involved in potentially high-risk activities, such as firearms or surveillance operations, should be as realistic as is reasonably possible. Failure to do so, in a similar way that a firefighter's training should involve search and rescue in full protective clothing/BA in a poor visibility environment, means that the safety of the individuals concerned in future, live scenarios may be unduly compromised.

The correct balance, however, is crucial. Training for realism may, on occasion, involve minor accidents (cuts/bruising) but should never extend to major injuries or, the worse possible scenario, fatalities. Guidance is available from the HSE, but the buck stops with the employer and those managers managing and organising any such events, who need to have advanced risk assessment and risk management skills. I have some sympathy with the remarks made that the SAS selection process must be appropriately realistic, but the possibility of severe heat stress on a particularly hot day when prolonged physical exertion is to be undertaken is a reasonably likely hazard and should have been properly planned for.

The hope is that lessons learnt will support realistic training and selection that adequately selects and prepares individuals for their future activities, whilst at the same time avoiding tragic events through poor risk management.Type your paragraph here.

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