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West Midlands Police Federation

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Officers have moral and legal duty to report near misses

15 January 2020

Police officers must report any near misses to the Force to help prevent injuries and serious incidents but should not be afraid to do so, the Federation’s health and safety lead has stressed.

Deano Walker was speaking after a Freedom of Information request by a media outlet revealed the Force made the largest single compensation pay-out to an officer injured in the line of duty paying more than £156,000 to an officer who fell from a stool or chair.

The figures also showed the Force spent a total of £258,568.49 on 73 compensation claims between 2015 and 2019 with the majority being paid out due to slips, trip and falls by officers and staff.

“It is clearly in everyone’s interest to help the Force prevent injuries because behind each of these pay-outs there will be someone who has been injured at work, perhaps with life-long effects, and who may have had to take time away from their job while they recovered,” says Deano.

“So, while the figures show the monetary value of the compensation, there will be the added cost, physically and mentally, to those injured, and the knock-on effect in terms of people having to pick up extra work while someone is away from their role.”

Officers and staff should record near misses on the E-safety section of the Force intranet but Deano says there can be some confusion as to what constitutes a near miss.

In very simple terms, a near miss can be defined as an unplanned event or situation that could have resulted in injury, illness, damage or loss but did not due to chance, corrective action or timely intervention.

Therefore any event or situation that does actually result in injury, illness, damage or loss is not a near miss and should be reported as an accident or incident.

The Force has a legal duty as an employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees under the Health and Safety at Work 1974 but officers and staff are under an obligation to help prevent colleagues and visitors coming to harm at work.

“The most common submission we get relates to minimum staffing levels but strictly speaking this doesn’t really fall under the near miss criteria – though we do appreciate officers’ frustrations,” says Deano.

“An example of a near miss that we get most years is a shovel or grit being missing from a grit bin. If you discover this is the case, you should report this since clearly in icy conditions a lack of available grit or a means of spreading it could lead to an incident in which someone could be injured.

“I don’t think anyone should assume someone else has reported these types of incidents and I also don’t think anyone should fear getting into trouble for raising an issue of concern. Everyone has a moral and legal duty to highlight near misses and help prevent someone getting injured. A near miss could be classed as an early warning that something is wrong.

“If there is an accident, clearly an investigation takes place and corrective action may be taken, reporting a near miss can lead to that being put right before someone gets hurt.

“The Federation receives a weekly list of all the near misses reported and we raise our concerns with the Force if necessary. One area we are becoming increasingly concerned about is police buildings. The years of cuts to police budgets clearly saw many of our police stations and other buildings closed but we also saw a lack of investment in those that remained open and we are seeing some accidents occur as a result. If you have a concern about the state of any police building and you fear there could be an incident in which someone could get injured I would urge you to report it.”

Other near miss examples include:

  • Premature failure of Airwave batteries
  • Poor reception areas for Airwave or other communication devices
  • PAVA leaks
  • PAVA, baton or other personal protection equipment having no – or little – effect during a violent incident; if there is an injury to an officer or staff, however, this should be recorded separately
  • Falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle, personal or police, on the way to work or after the end of shift
  • Exposure to extremes of temperature or bad weather on operations
  • Vehicle faults, such as engines cutting out while being driven, brake failures or vehicle fires.

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