1/3 of deaths in UK military caused by accident

#1
While yesterday's Sunday Times was reporting 'MoD hides injury toll of Taliban bombs', the Independent took a different tack with:

One-third of deaths in Britain's military caused by accidents

A third of deaths in the British military happen because of safety failures, the Ministry of Defence has admitted. Figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveal that nearly 800 service personnel have been killed over 10 years in accidents ranging from car crashes to electric shocks.
Not that surprising. Sadly, many of us will recall individual deaths in service which we knew about at the time and which must be included in those 10-year statistics.

But I was surprised to read that according to the story, despite the H&S culture the figures had actually got worse:

“Examination of the figures on deaths in the armed forces between 2001 and 2008 showed that one in three of the total number recorded were caused by H&S [health & safety] failures ... Analysis of the data on fatalities, which overall had worsened during the reporting period, suggested the department had to improve significantly.”
It is not stated by what measure or what was the comparison period. I assume that the deaths attributable to H&S failures include accidental deaths in the course of operations. Risks which may not be justified in the course of normal training or peacetime activities may well be justified during or in preparation for operations.

A "footnote" from the story:

The ministry admitted yesterday that the number of personnel suffering from non-freezing cold injury (NFCI), or “trench foot”, has more than trebled since 2000 – to more than 300 cases last year.

The injury, caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to cold and wet conditions, can cause pain, numbness, and permanent muscle and nerve damage. In some cases, treatment can require amputation. Defence chiefs have launched a campaign to warn personnel of the dangers from the condition, which caused significant problems during the Falklands War in 1982.
I think there was previous media coverage of an above-average incidence of non-freezing cold injury during initial training amongst soldiers recruited from the Commonwealth. Statistics from US forces suggested however that the determining factor was not racial, but whether or not the trainee had previously lived in a warm climate. Either way, while usually not to be compared with more catastrophic injuries, non-freezing cold injury can be career ending for an infantry soldier.
 
#2
I don't mean to seem like a cold calculating bastard (although I am), but how do these stats shape up to other industries?
The Army is much much larger than the vast majority of civy entities, so these accidental deaths would be scaled up. That's considerably less than 1% accidental deaths over a 10 year period.
In a comparably high-hazard industry, like construction or something, would 1 death out of a firm of 100 workers in 10 years be standard?
 
#3
CrownImperial said:
I don't mean to seem like a cold calculating fatherless (although I am), but how do these stats shape up to other industries?
The Army is much much larger than the vast majority of civy entities, so these accidental deaths would be scaled up. That's considerably less than 1% accidental deaths over a 10 year period.
In a comparably high-hazard industry, like construction or something, would 1 death out of a firm of 100 workers in 10 years be standard?
Construction industry fatality rate much higher apparently:
Construction has the largest number of fatal injuries of the main industry groups. In 2007/08p there were 72 fatal injuries giving at rate of 3.4 per 100 000 workers.
Web source

Although I wonder if the construction industry stats relate to workers actually on site (not those in say the accounts department of the same companies) whereas the Army figures would be all-in?

You might also compare UK military accident rates with those amongst other military with similar equipment and tasks. Robust British training and a general willingness to 'get out more' would arguably be further factors.
 
#4
Accidental deaths are inevitable whether on or off duty. Part of a soldier's remit is to work tired so inevitably accidents are going to happen. Couple that with soldiers driving on the wrong side of the road or crossing the road and looking the wrong way. Interestingly there has been an increase in injuries resulting from traffic collisions in the UK because of the number of drivers who are used to driving on the left. THey either react by swerving to the left to avoid collision or they step out into the dtreet and look the wrong way.
Could the increase in NFCI perhaps be accounted for in the change in attitude towards the soldier. In the old days the platoon commander would insist on foot inspection and making sure clean socks and powder were used. Nowadays I am told there is a reluctance to treat soldiers as 'children' and they are expected to maintain their own feet.
 
#5
Markintime said:
Accidental deaths are inevitable whether on or off duty. Part of a soldier's remit is to work tired so inevitably accidents are going to happen. Couple that with soldiers driving on the wrong side of the road or crossing the road and looking the wrong way.
Yes, but why the increase (if we accept that there has been)?

Interestingly there has been an increase in injuries resulting from traffic collisions in the UK because of the number of drivers who are used to driving on the left. THey either react by swerving to the left to avoid collision or they step out into the dtreet and look the wrong way.
Really they should be driving on the left.

Could the increase in NFCI perhaps be accounted for in the change in attitude towards the soldier. In the old days the platoon commander would insist on foot inspection and making sure clean socks and powder were used. Nowadays I am told there is a reluctance to treat soldiers as 'children' and they are expected to maintain their own feet.
Good point.
 
#6
Sorry Hackle old boy but your maths is a bit off there.

800 in 10 years, averaging out to 80 per year with a (very generously) rounded up figure of 200,000 service personell gives a figure of 40 per 100,000, compared to the construction industries 3.4 per 100,000.

According to that, you are 12 times more likely to die in an accident in the Armed Forces than in the construction industry.
 
#7
Aunty Stella said:
Sorry Hackle old boy but your maths is a bit off there.

800 in 10 years, averaging out to 80 per year with a (very generously) rounded up figure of 200,000 service personell gives a figure of 40 per 100,000, compared to the construction industries 3.4 per 100,000.

According to that, you are 12 times more likely to die in an accident in the Armed Forces than in the construction industry.
Thanks Aunty!

Blame CrownImperial - he started it! ;)
 
#8
hackle said:
Markintime said:
Accidental deaths are inevitable whether on or off duty. Part of a soldier's remit is to work tired so inevitably accidents are going to happen. Couple that with soldiers driving on the wrong side of the road or crossing the road and looking the wrong way.
Yes, but why the increase (if we accept that there has been)?

Interestingly there has been an increase in injuries resulting from traffic collisions in the UK because of the number of drivers who are used to driving on the left. THey either react by swerving to the left to avoid collision or they step out into the dtreet and look the wrong way.
Really they should be driving on the left.

Could the increase in NFCI perhaps be accounted for in the change in attitude towards the soldier. In the old days the platoon commander would insist on foot inspection and making sure clean socks and powder were used. Nowadays I am told there is a reluctance to treat soldiers as 'children' and they are expected to maintain their own feet.
Good point.
My apologies, please read 'used to driving on the right'.

Perhaps accidents have increased in proportion to the off-duty wearing of Ipods and other personal music systems, I had a student step out in front of me the other day, totally oblivious to his surroundings, he nearly jumped a mile when I sounded my horn, I could easily have hit him.
 
#10
Its not a very nice environment training for/being at war. Its certainly not very safe.

As someone already said we have all seen stupid accidents end careers/lives.

The construction industry doesn't require its staff to work deprived of sleep using firearms in foreign countries doing all sorts of tasks they are not masters of.

Par Example

"Righto boys todays task is to move that ISO container from there, down the road to there then turn it into a sangar... Before first light tomorrow. Heres the tools, work out how to use them on the way and somebody over the rank of corporal make sure you read the instructions. P.S - Sleep is for Civvies!"
 
#11
I suspect this is more to do with the pre-empting of a controversial report about the tragedy of the Nimrod that blew up due to engineering incompetence and a complete failure of management oversight resulting in the deaths of 14 men.

We shall see.
 
#12
verticalgyro said:
Are there any comparable figures from other militaries (eg US, Can, Aus, EU countries).

Comparing soldiering to construction work can't be right. I don't think you could even consider the RE soldier against construction industry, nor a VM against a guy who works in my local Vauxhall garage for example.
I agree.

It is stupid nonsense comparing accident rates in HM Forces with those in civilian industries and merely gives silly people the opportunity to suck their teeth and purse their lips.
 
#13
I think US or canadian stats would be most useful, as we have comparable armies (in terms of what we do, not scale).
Comparing us to certain EU armies isn't a fair comparison in my humble reckoning.
 
#14
With regard to some of the points being made it would also be interesting to see a breakdown of Operations, Exercise and in Barracks if they figures go into that much detail.
 
#15
CAARPS said:
With regard to some of the points being made it would also be interesting to see a breakdown of Operations, Exercise and in Barracks if they figures go into that much detail.
Since a significant civilian cause of death is DIY and household accidents is it not also likely that they might account for a reasonable number of AF deaths? Do we have figures that show death from accidents within the home? Let's not forget that soldiers are just as likely to be killed on leave, either at their home or on holiday, those figures will still show up as death in service even though they are not directly attributable to service.
 
#16
Markintime said:
CAARPS said:
With regard to some of the points being made it would also be interesting to see a breakdown of Operations, Exercise and in Barracks if they figures go into that much detail.
Since a significant civilian cause of death is DIY and household accidents is it not also likely that they might account for a reasonable number of AF deaths? Do we have figures that show death from accidents within the home? Let's not forget that soldiers are just as likely to be killed on leave, either at their home or on holiday, those figures will still show up as death in service even though they are not directly attributable to service.
Agreed, I was going to include off duty as well but I am not clear if the figures do indeed include them, for instance soldiers involved in RTA on leave.
 
#17
Off duty should not be included as its not work related (except in theatre where you have little choice), same exclusion would apply to soldiers who are injured or killed on their daily commute to their normal barracks / office if they live off base. Thats how the civilian numbers are calculated (international standards tend to apply to this sort of stuff) and I doubt the army would want to do anything different.

However, if for some reason the MOD are including this sort of thing, (which I doubt), then that would certainly explain a higher frequency for death's injuries and illnesses.
 
#18
Also worth noting that comparisons with the construction industry in particular, throw up anomolies based on the task as opposed to a qualification. Joe Bloggs can set himself up as a roofer one week, fall off one the next and with no formal training, H & S oversight etc. be categorised as "construction" - when in all reality his lack of training is what has led to the accident in the first place. Equally, as opposed to all forces pers being easy to count (except when it seems planning for ops), there are many construction related injuries of the great untaxed community, who do not get counted into any other metrics apart from what they turned up at A&E for.

Nige - what date is it due to be published?
 
#19
Interesting subject, although I should point out that proportionately, agriculture not construction is the most hazardous industry in the UK.

Worker fatalities by main industry

In agriculture there were 39 fatal injuries and the rate of fatal injury was 9.7 deaths per 100 000 workers. The rate of fatal injury to workers has fluctuated in recent years with no overall trend. The average rate is 9.8 when looked over the latest five years.
In construction there were 72 fatal injuries and the rate of fatal injury was 3.4 deaths per 100 000 workers. Although the last 15 years overall has shown a downward trend in the rate of fatal injury to workers, the recent five years has shown little change, with an average yearly rate of 3.5.
In manufacturing there were 35 fatal injuries and the rate of fatal injury was 1.1 per 100 000 workers. The rate of fatal injury to workers has fluctuated in recent years with no overall trend. The five-year average rate is 1.2 per year.
In the services sector there were 74 fatalities, and the rate of fatal injury was 0.30 deaths per 100 000 workers. Since 1998/99, the trend in the rate of injury in this sector has remained relatively unchanged.
We shoudn't overlook the factor of age either. Young people are generally speaking more likely to die accidentally, and the armed forces are composed of a disproportionately large number of "young" people.
 
#20
The QCs report is months late, but I understand is very close to being published. At one stage emails being sent to the QC conducting the "independent" review were being responded to by the MoD. But I also understand that our man made himself available to the right people in the end. There is considerable nervousness on the half of the brass hats on this one. This could have been an attempt to show things are being done lessons learnt before he reveals all. It is also possible that the report has already been shown to the "Top Brass".

Standard tactics by MoD mandarins.
 

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