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West Midlands Police Federation

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Health and safety lead: I realised what a difference you can make

11 March 2020

Deano Walker is currently the Federation’s health and safety committee secretary – an area which if you’d asked him when he first became a rep back in 2013 he would have said he knew nothing about and had no interest in.

But six years on, and with a whole host of experience behind him, it is an area where he believes a difference can be made.
He explains: “I wasn’t attracted to health and safety in any way but I soon realised what a difference you can make.”

“The biggest challenge is getting the Force to listen and make changes. Unfortunately, in health and safety you can point out an issue to your employer but if they choose to do nothing then the challenge just sits there. The challenge means something to us when it goes all wrong and we can say ‘we told you so’.

“What concerns me is that this may come at a cost to an officer being seriously injured or even worse.

“Evidence is key to all we do on the committee and without it we are unable to challenge the Force. We know officers are out there not getting refs, we know there are officers out there not getting toilet breaks when sat on crime scenes for hours - and more - but we need the near misses which is evidence. We cannot go to the Force and say ‘this is an issue, you’re breaking health and safety law’ because they just throw it back and say ‘where’s your evidence?’”

Since taking on the health and safety role, Deano has completed the national health and safety course provided by the Federation and is in the process of completing an NVQ 5.

Looking ahead, Deano said he sees the biggest challenge for the Federation being ensuring members are treated fairly at all times.

He said: “It can sometimes be difficult to manage officer expectations too and we also have to be mindful of the need to balance the individual needs with the Force’s operational priorities.

“But we are here to represent members, negotiate on their behalf and influence decision-makers with a firm focus on ensuring fair treatment for officers. The austerity years have taken their toll on members, who have been put under huge pressure, but there has also been an impact on the Force’s buildings and equipment so, with my health and safety hat on, I would say the Federation has to flag up areas where offices and buildings are in need of maintenance and repair so that they are safe and fit for purpose.”

And talking about the biggest challenge for officers, he continued: “Given the loss of officers during the funding cuts, I think officers are going to continue to feel the mental and physical strain of trying to do more with less. We have seen increased numbers of officers off sick with stress and mental health issues and, while we are seeing more wellbeing initiatives introduced, I still think officers are going to be under huge pressure.”

Diary

July 2020
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