Nia-Wyn, Senior Associate and Hannah Bartley, Paralegal in the military team discuss the recent defence statistics that show high numbers of service members still receiving medical discharges for cold related injuries.
The Defence statics for medical discharges for regular armed forces 2021/2022 publication was released on the 14/07/2022. This publication displays the range of medical conditions that service members have been medical discharge for since 2017, to include cold related injuries. Despite the Ministry of Defence claiming risk assessments are carried out prior to training exercises and suitable and sufficient equipment is provided, many service personnel continue to sustain preventable cold related injuries. Since 2017, 236 service members have received a medical discharge from service due to cold related Injury (Defence statistics 2021/22).
What is a cold injury?
A cold injury can be caused by repeated or prolonged exposure to cold and/or wet conditions. The injury is often caused by the inability to adequately dry or rewarm, not having access to adequate kit or receiving adequate training on how to prevent, identify and treat a cold injury.
There is a common misconception that cold injuries are somehow the fault of those who suffer from them. However, if personnel are not given the correct kit or training on how to spot the signs of a developing cold injury, responsibility for these failings lays with the MoD.
Since the 1900s it has been known that service personnel have been susceptible to developing cold related injuries. Cold injuries typically affect the hands and feet. The affected area can become irritated, cold, numb and the skin may start to swell, with the suffering noticing pins and needles. Individuals may also suffer from a burning and painful sensation to the affected area once they enter or return to warmer conditions. Severe cases of cold related injuries sustained in service may result in medically downgraded and/or medically discharged from service.
A cold related injury may result in serving personnel being unable to work in cold and/or wet conditions or spend long periods of time outside. Due to the restrictive physical nature of the condition, individuals suffering with cold injuries often tell us that the injury has impacted their employment and mental health.
The recent Defence statistics publication of 14/07/2022 demonstrates that preventable injuries such as cold injuries are still being sustained in service. This is a cause for concern.
If you are suffering from a cold related injury, you may be able to bring a civil claim for your injuries and may be eligible for compensation. This applies even if you have been turned down before or been unsuccessful in a claim under the War Pension Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.