Police Federation

The Law

The Law of Fatigue graphic


Equality Act 2010

For health and safety law purposes, sworn police officers are considered employees of the 'Office of Chief Constable' and it is therefore the duty of their 'office' to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, sworn police officers are kept safe.

When an employer organises and plans shift work, they must comply with employers’ general duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (the HSWA) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR). 

Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) states every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work.  Any assessment shall be reviewed where there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid, or where there has been a significant change in the matters to which it relates.

Section 2 of HSWA states employers must provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees.  Regulation 13 of the MHSWR expands this requirement with more specific duties.

We have seen a significant decline in the number of police stations and buildings over the last ten years with a lack of investment in the remaining real estate across England and Wales.   Section 2 of HSWA states employers must provide and maintain a working environment for their employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.  This requirement is enhanced by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Employees also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other people, who may be affected by their activities at work. This duty implies that employees should take positive steps to understand the risk factors in their work, such as the causes of fatigue, comply with safety rules and procedures and make sure that nothing they do or fail to do at work puts anyone at risk. 


Working Time and Police Regulations

There is an expectation forces will comply with both Working Time Regulations and Police Regulations when it comes to the hours which can be work by officers, the time they should have off between shifts and the breaks they should have during work.  However, failings in this area is a significant contributing factor to the fatigue faced by many of our officers.

These areas can be complicated to understand therefore we have produced the following guidance document to support you when you are considering how to deal with such issues.  (attach link to Paul Matthews document)

PFEW understands some officers have opted out of Working Time Regulations which permits them to work additional hours above the norm.  We understand in the current financial climate for some this is essential and we are therefore not trying to be prescriptive on what hours officers work.  We are merely highlighting the dangers of fatigue and offerings solutions to identify it and manage it before the worse happens.

Click here for the complete Police Federation paper on Working Time Directives.

The HSE has considered the additional risks working outside Regulations brings and have produced supportive literature to assist:


Force Overtime Policies

PFEW understand in the current financial climate many officers are struggling financially and we are therefore not promoting the need to reduce or cap overtime.  What we are looking for are forces to have Overtime Policies in place which inform regarding Overtime Regulations and Working Time Directives but also ensure officers are supported when they find themselves working excessive hours. 

Officers need to maintain a healthy work/life balance and receive suitable time away from the work environment, this will give them time to process events, recharge their batteries and maintain both their physical and mental wellbeing.  If some officers are finding they are unable to achieve this there should be appropriate managerial checks and balances contained within the Overtime Policy to ensure conversations are had with those officers with early intervention strategies consider should an issue be identified.


Napping Policies

It may be controversial to suggest this but napping, is an important fatigue countermeasure.  There is strong scientific evidence showing that our brains benefit from a brief period of actual sleep (a nap), not just a quiet period, to recover from fatigue and to help restore alertness. 

Both short (15-30 minute) and long (1.5-hour) naps can increase alertness.

To combat the negative effect of fatigue can have at work, employers such as Google and Ben & Jerry's are embracing workplace naps. PFEW accepts allowing officers to nap at work is still seen as an unusual policy, and officers who have never had the opportunity to take a nap at work before may be unsure about their rights to sleep at work, or their responsibilities when doing so.

To ensure full transparency, and to remove any uncertainty, PFEW feels forces should consider if they should introduce a napping at work policy. The policy can outline information such as the facilities available within the workplace; the maximum length of time for resting; the period when naps can be taken; and how many officers can use the facilities at the same time.   If this is a step too far then forces could look at introducing downtime for officers instead, as recently suggested by Public Health England. Allowing downtime at work, and encouraging officers to switch off outside work, will help to get longer and better quality sleep at night.

Where managers have identified a fatigue issue either through conversation or observation they could consider:

  • How to schedule officers for naps
  • How to wake them (such as by an alarm or a designated person)
  • Where staff will take the naps
  • How to cover work activities while officers nap

Naps are a temporary help to improve alertness, and could save lives.  They are not a replacement for getting regular, adequate sleep at night.

More guidance can be found here:


Equality Act 2010

Fatigue can impact different people in different ways and as such managers should consider, if Generic Risk Assessments are suitable and sufficient to protect all.   Supervisors should familiarise themselves with the nine characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act 2010 and ensure any risk assessment considers how these may impact on risk evaluation. 

It is about having conversations with team members and ensuring you are aware when fatigue could be linked to a protected characteristic and considering what reasonable adjustments may be required to support officers to achieve their best result.

For example:

  • Age - The British Medical Association states an individual’s age will affect how well they manage fatigue and cope with different working patterns. Older people (particularly older men) typically have less good quality sleep because of sleep fragmentation (brief arousals during a sleep period) and waking frequently and early.
  • Disability – Officers who suffer from dyslexia often report their symptoms worsening when fatigued.
  • Pregnancy and maternity – New, expecting or breast-feeding mothers can experience greater fatigue symptoms.
  • Religion or belief – Officers observing the holy month of Ramadan could be fatigued during fasting.

More guidance can be found here:


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