Police Federation

Chief constables must ensure forces comply to Health and Safety Act

20 January 2023

PFEW accepts policing is inherently dangerous and even where all reasonably practicable steps have been taken to minimise risks, police officers are still exposed to significant risk every day. 

We are not expecting managers to have the gift of foresight, but we do expect them to use all available information to assess risk and put in place control measures to reduce the danger attached to each role, event or circumstance their officers will be involved in. We also expect managers and officers to have the right training to do their roles effectively.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) applies to all activities of the police service, with the primary duties under HSWA focused on employers. Since 1998, chief constables have been deemed the employers of police officers.  The onus is, therefore, on them to ensure their force complies with HSWA and the Regulations behind it.

As the Health and Safety Lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) I continue to be shocked by the information sent to me by Fed Reps around the country, detailing the health and safety failings by forces and the risks this presents to our members. This ranges from not recognising obvious risks leading to a direct threat to life, to the lack of the provision of basic facilities to maintain the dignity of officers seeking toilet breaks or to change sanitary products.  This is not good enough. PFEW is now working to remind forces of their legal obligations to treat their employees with dignity, consideration and understanding. In short, PFEW will hold police forces to account and make sure police employers do better.

Our wish list is not unreasonable, in fact it is enshrined by law. PFEW is calling on forces to ensure:

  • Suitable and sufficient risk assessments are undertaken with reasonably practicable control measures put in place where appropriate.
  • Recognition as to when Generic Risk Assessments need to be updated or changed.
  • Appropriate training.
  • Uniform, equipment and PPE to keep officers secure and comfortable.
  • Working locations where we have facilities to rest, concentrate and take care of our basic human needs.
  • Consideration of our needs when deployed on operational situations.

I have engaged with our employers and other stakeholders across the country, reiterating their legal obligations to our members and the ball is now firmly in their court to improve the areas which need it and share their best practise with other colleagues. I look forward to seeing improvements across the board to ensure our officers are being treated fairly and are not exposed to unnecessary, avoidable risks.

If you have any further questions on health and safety, please reach out to me on email Mark.Andrews@polfed.org.

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