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Judith Hackitt responds...regarding the "Health and safety taliban" and its (alleged) impact on the police service.

The Health and Safety Commission and Executive fully recognise Sir Norman Bettison's concern that getting the balance right between operational needs and meeting health and safety requirements can sometimes be very difficult for those on the front line, where fast decision making is essential.

The emergency services work in an extremely challenging environment. There will of course be times when, in order to protect the public, the police will expose themselves to danger. But equally individual officers should not be expected to take risks needlessly.

We believe by recognising that people have to face these difficult choices it is possible to provide them with the right equipment and the right training so that sensible, balanced decisions can be taken, avoiding the risk of further unnecessary loss of life in what may already be tragic circumstances, but still allowing them to continue to do their extremely important work.

It is not possible to eliminate all risks, and this is not what is required by health and safety law. We do however recognise the challenges it poses for the police and with this in mind we have recently invited the leaders of all three emergency services, including of course the police, to a meeting to discuss where the real challenges lie and find a sensible way forward. We would welcome any input from Sir Norman Bettison into those discussions.

Judith Hackitt
Chair, Health and Safety Commission
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge
London SE1 9HS

Updated 2012-01-13