South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne has called for forces to do more to make sure members aren’t impacted negatively from hours spent wearing body armour.
As part of the National Body Armour Working Group, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW)works closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and other policing organisations such as the Home Office and force health and safety leads.
However, provision can vary across forces.
Steve said: “Some of my colleagues have been wearing body armour throughout their shift for up to 30 years. Even if you’re in the very best shape, that has an impact.
“Of course, wearing body armour is vital to keep officers safe while out on duty – but that shouldn’t come at the cost of their health. Forces have a responsibility to make sure body armour is regularly checked, stored properly, and fitted every 12 months to make sure it’s not doing irreversible harm to those that wear it.”
National Board member Steve Hartshorn backed these comments saying: “We have been working with experts from Flint House, the Police Treatment Centres (Harrogate and Auchterarder) and the North-West Police Benevolent Fund to share ways to help ease the strain.
“We are also working with forces to remind them of their responsibility to look after officers’ welfare and encourage good practice around body armour care, storage and checks following damage.
“As a former firearms officer, I personally know the importance of properly storing body armour correctly. Colleagues need the correct storage for their armour, so they can hang this correctly and be ready to be used for the next shift.”
These comments followed PFEW’s successful Back to Basics initiative, which highlighted ways members could minimise the impact of wearing body armour on their back and shoulders.
PFEW wellbeing lead Belinda Goodwin said: “We need to get the word out to colleagues that although body armour is mandatory - when it’s safe to do they should take it off. Far too many of our colleagues keep it on when they enter a station to do a crime report, then three hours later realise they still have it on.
“Some members also carry unnecessary items on the cover of their body armour which adds to the weight on their back, necks and shoulders. We are trying to encourage these individuals to remove items they don’t need.”
To read more about proper back care, visit backcare.org.uk.