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Hertfordshire Police Federation

Follow advice on body armour, says Federation

5 October 2021

Hertfordshire Police Federation is urging members to keep up to date with the latest advice on the use of body armour as part nationwide BackCare Awareness Week 2021.

The successful Police Federation Back to Basics initiative highlighted ways to prevent back problems linked to body armour earlier this year but wellbeing leads say there is still lots to be done.

Hertfordshire branch secretary Al Wollaston said: “Wearing body armour is not optional but we know it can put a strain on the back, neck and shoulders if it’s not used correctly so it’s important to follow the advice.

“Back injuries can lead to long-term health issues so we encourage all our members to be aware of the potential risks and take whatever action necessary to minimise them.

“The health and wellbeing of our members is of paramount importance and the Police Federation is constantly monitoring the impact of wearing body armour so it is worth keeping up to date with the latest advice and guidelines.”

Body armour is a mandatory and essential piece of personal protection equipment (PPE) which saves lives. It can be cumbersome, and the addition of other items of kit can have a significant impact on back, shoulder and spine.

The first Home Office Body Armour Standard was written in 1993 and forces began to make it mandatory in the late 1990s which means there are near 30-year veterans who have been wearing it for three decades. 

The Police Federation’s National Body Armour Working Group works closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and other policing organisations to ensure it is at the forefront of any advances in this area of PPE and has campaigned for better coverage for many years.

It has commissioned a study looking at the impact on female officers and the best bras to wear under body armour and is awaiting the outcome of this important research.

National wellbeing lead Belinda Goodwin said recently attended Human Factor Testing of Generation 3 body armour, which featured colleagues of all ages and sizes, and was administered by Greenwich University. 

She believes – particularly due to the increased levels of violence faced by police officers – this could be a game changer.

Belinda said: “Although nobody should expect to be assaulted while doing their job, the reality for any police officer is different.

“The Gen 3 body armour should be rolled out next year, and although the human skeleton is not built to regularly carry any kind of heavy weight, we hope this will provide better cover, be more flexible, less weighty, and the weight will be better distributed.

“Members fully deserve the very best protection money can buy – and Gen 3 is a welcome advance to the body armour currently provided to police officers.”

National Board lead for operational policing Steve Hartshorn said: “We have been working with experts from Flint House, the Police Treatment Centres (Harrogate and Auchterarder) and the North-West Police Benevolent Fund to share ways to help ease the strain.

“We are also 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 following damage.

“We really need them to implement mandatory refitting every year – particularly for colleagues who return to work following long periods away from work or wearing uniform.

“As a former firearms officer, I personally know the importance of properly storing body armour correctly. Colleagues need the correct storage for their armour, so they can hang this correctly and be ready to be used for the next shift.”

A series of videos has been published on the BackCare Awareness Week 2021 website and can viewed by clicking on the links below:

 

 

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