24 June 2021
A campaign highlighting the potential health risks of wearing heavy body armour for too long has been launched by the Police Federation as part of World Wellbeing Week.
The Back to Basics awareness drive focuses on the impact body armour can have on the body, shares good practice from around the country, promotes police treatment centre resources and educates around prevention and what help is available.
It also provides details of simple steps officers can take to ensure their backs, necks, and shoulders are not damaged by the protective gear.
Derbyshire Police Federation members are being urged to look out for social media updates, helpful videos and related links on the Back to Basics webpage.
Derbyshire branch chair Tony Wetton said: “It is vital that our members are made aware of the potential damage the excessive wearing of body armour can cause.
“We all know how important body armour is to keep us safe but we need to make it clear it can also do great harm and lead to serious back, neck and shoulder problems if it’s kept on too long.
“The human skeleton isn’t built to carry around this amount of weight long-term and there is evidence that it could lead to some significant health issues if it’s not worn appropriately.
“The Back to Basics awareness drive is to remind our members to make sure they’re wearing their body armour when it needs to be worn, but also to ensure they look after themselves when safely back in police stations by taking it off and getting some relief from it. It’s also really important to make sure that body armour is stored properly, checked when it’s been damaged, and replaced when necessary.”
The Police Federation’s national Wellbeing Sub-Committee will be working with experts from Flint House, Police Treatment Centres (Harrogate and Auchterarder) and the North-West Police Benevolent Fund to examine ways to help ease the strain on muscles and skeleton.
The sub-committee will also be working with forces to remind them of their responsibility to look after officers’ welfare and encourage good practice around body armour care, storage and checks after being damaged.
Steve Hartshorn, the Federation National Board lead for operational policing, has written about the importance of going back to basics with body armour on the Police Federation website.
He said: “We get it; we’ve all been there. You’ve dealt with a job and you’re back in the car or at the station and you don’t take off your body armour.
“Maybe it seems a waste of time, as you’ll only have to put it on again. Or maybe you just forget that you’re wearing it.
“But that extra weight you’re carrying for no reason could be wreaking havoc with your back.
“If you look at vehicle seat design and office seating, they aren’t designed for body armour, or prolonged periods of being sat in by officers wearing body armour.”
Steve said the Wellbeing Sub-Committee had set up a body armour working group to look more closely at these issues and found that there were problems with the weight of the plates used and also the weight caused by what officers were carrying on their person such as mobile units and other kit.
The group established that officers from across England and Wales are being referred to treatment centres with back, shoulder and neck pain, which could be caused by wearing body armour.