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West Midlands Police Federation

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Federation helps shape Force pandemic recovery

23 July 2020

The Federation’s health and safety lead has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure the safety of officers and staff during the pandemic.

Deano Walker, whose full-time position in the Federation team was extended due to the coronavirus crisis, has worked across the Force area, meeting Federation reps and managers to help address any concerns.

“My full-time post was initially to plan the restructuring of the Federation’s health and safety committee. This has now been completed and we have a strong, committed and knowledgeable committee which has been essential at this time,” says Deano.

“We are scheduled to meet monthly, however, during the pandemic we have met fortnightly due to the amount of health and safety issues that have understandably arisen. The committee members have obviously been kept busy, carrying out risk assessments for the Force and challenging some that had been completed and identifying those that hadn’t.

“I have been able to travel Force-wide, meeting with reps and ironing out lots of health and safety concerns. These visits have enabled me to assess police buildings for their suitability for those members who have remained on the front-line and then getting those back to work once the guidelines changed allowing people back to work if social distancing could be adhered to in their working environment. We are an essential public service so on occasions we have had to apply some common sense to allow policing to continue.

“As a committee, we have visited around 50 police buildings in company with the Force health and safety team from B7 and this has been more concerning for us and challenging for the Force. Some stations are laid out well, staff are being distributed evenly, and work terminals spaced out or closed off.

“However, some were very concerning. All response hubs were visited. With the exception of Solihull, all response teams were struggling to keep to the social distancing guidelines. We found officers were working too closely together, change-over was challenging and training days were dangerous. All of this, and other concerns, have been fed back to Gold Command and it’s now for local reps and members to feed back to us, with evidence, if things have changed.

“Custody was an issue at Wolverhampton, not just for those staffing it but also those around the building. Issues around air conditioning units had to be addressed, officers had concerns about sharing rest areas and all this was challenged by our custody lead Mick Woods and local rep Daz Neville.”

Deano adds: “I have received some fantastic support along the way from a few great local reps who, with the right guidance, have challenged their senior supervisors when things have not been right. I have also met lots of Federation members and generally they were pleased to see us out there.”

The Force has now completed a generic COVID-19 risk assessment which is available on the intranet. Every head of department/NPU is expected to produce its own version of this to protect officers and staff.

In addition to the work across the Force, Deano and the health and safety committee members have been helping staff at the Federation office at Guardians House with risk assessments and policies to ensure that when the staff return, they are safe. Events held at Guardians House, such as retirement seminars, have formed part of those risk assessments too.

While the work around the safety of officers and staff in offices and buildings has been a priority, the Federation’s health and safety committee has worked with the Force to ensure all officers not only have sufficient PPE but also the correct PPE for the role they are carrying out.

Deano explains: “The Force was initially a little slow but it soon picked up and it has now having spent around £3 million on personal safety equipment. Each department/NPU has a SPOC for ordering PPE but officers can also order items via a link on the COVID-19 section of the Force intranet. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and colleagues. If there is no PPE, order some. If you see something wrong, challenge it and, if you need advice, please contact the committee.”

Deano’s full-time Federation role ended on 1 July.

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