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Hertfordshire Police Federation

Back to Basics: body armour may be affecting your health

24 June 2021

A campaign highlighting the potential health risks of excessively wearing body armour has been launched by the Police Federation as part of World Wellbeing Week.

The Back to Basics awareness drive focuses on the effects that 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.

Officers are being urged to keep up to speed with the campaign by looking out for social media updates, helpful videos and related links on the Back to Basics webpage.

Hertfordshire Police Federation secretary Al Wollaston said: “The key message from the Back to Basics campaign is to remind our members to remove their body armour when they do need to be wearing it.

“Body armour serves a very important function but can lead to problems when it’s kept on for too long. The human skeleton isn’t built to carry around this amount of weight long-term and it could contribute to significant health issues.”

The Police Federation’s national Wellbeing Sub-committee will be working with experts from Flint House, the 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.