he Health and Safety at Work Act makes Chief Constables legally responsible for the safe practices and environment in their Force at the risk of prosecution. Not surprisingly then, it is the one area that Chief Constables “really fear”, says Sarah Johnson, who chairs the Police Federation of England and Wales’ Health and Safety Sub-Committee. She explains: “We’re here to raise and advance any health and safety issues that come up in a Force. Our committee is a focal point because health and safety is present in all Federation business in some shape or form – and this is one of the most effective legal remedies. We are there to ensure chiefs are held to account but it isn’t always easy because with 43 Forces you get the same number of different practices.” The committee gets involved with everything from crewing policy to uniform and anything that could cause injury. Neck muscle and repetitive strain injuries, as well as isolation, are a focus due to the increase in home working. The six-strong committee reserves a seat at the (now virtual) table for Matt Tomlinson of the law firm Slater + Gordon and Lyn Harris from the Health and Safety Executive, ensuring the Fed reps have a solid base to advance PFEW’s arguments. Sarah is a former Gloucestershire Police

Federation Chair who joined policing as a uniformed officer in Cheltenham 29 years ago. She has held various roles including in CID, youth diversion, in a custody control room and she was a Neighbourhood Inspector. She was asked if she would consider becoming a Police Federation rep due to there being a shortage of reps at inspector level at the time and rose through the ranks of her branch, eventually joining the National Board and becoming PFEW’s Deputy National Treasurer. Clive Knight is the Secretary of the

Sub-Committee. He describes himself as a “new old boy” as he spent 21 years in banking before getting itchy feet and switching careers. Clive started as a uniform PC in Kingston, Surrey, before becoming a Licensed Search Officer. He worked on the Levi Bellfield inquiry and was part of the search team at Tavistock Square

34 | POLICE | NOVEMBER 2020 Sarah Johnson Clive Knight

CHIEF OFFICERS FEAR In the latest in our series looking at the work of the national Police Federation, Steve Bax speaks to the Chair and Secretary of the Health and Safety Sub-Committee

“Health and Safety is present in all Federation business in some shape or form – and this is one of the most effective legal remedies”

after the 7/7 bombings. He was promoted to Sergeant in 2007 and became a Police Federation rep two years later, joining the National Board in 2018.

Clive said: “When we find good health and safety practices in Forces our role is to cascade that to Federation branches across the country. So, for example, on footwear, some Forces have issued decent footwear after officers suffered trips and falls. It’s about £80 for a good pair of boots and new recruits can’t always afford that so there are discrepancies between all the Forces.” Clive recently attended the National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) course. It is an internationally recognised standard qualification that the Federation is keen for all its health and safety reps to have. “We’re providing that high standard of training so our Reps are on parity with any other Health and Safety officer and are equally as credible,” explains Sarah. On the committee’s view of safer crewing, she says: “We’re not saying Forces must double crew every job as that would obviously not be pragmatic. If you are taking a statement, there is no expectation that you should take a colleague with you. However, in situations where the intel around

an individual suggests a threat, then we shouldn’t send one officer on their own.” She added that the Federation’s latest Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey of the membership will be vital in establishing a truer picture of single crewing and issues involved.

Other issues on the Health and Safety

Sub-Committee’s radar include trauma. This can cause psychological damage but a debrief can assist recovery. One of Sarah’s predecessors as Gloucestershire Federation Chair attended four sudden death incidents on a single shift, she says. This illustrates the repeated exposure to trauma that some officers have.

There is work looking into body armour and fatigue. With coronavirus showing signs of being with us for the long term, the committee is taking a keen interest in personal protective equipment (PPE) and says it is in the Forces’ best interests to get this right, as the need to isolate can potentially be avoided if it can be shown that officers were wearing the right PPE to minimise the chance of the virus spreading. This is the case in Scotland but not yet in England. Having a consistent approach throughout policing in the UK would enable Forces to have a collaborative approach.

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