Yesterday, the Health and Safety Executive launched a policy statement about how duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act can be balanced with the operational needs of the Police Service.
The statement represents two years of work with a range of policing organisations, including those representing chief officers and junior officers. It was developed following media reports that suggested the Health and Safety at Work Act stops officers doing their jobs. It doesn't.
We do however acknowledge the concern and misunderstanding about how the Police Service can comply with health and safety legislation in their operational work given the often testing and difficult circumstances in which they are called to act and our statement sets out our position on this.
The launch of the statement took place at the Association of Chief Police Officers' (ACPO) Cabinet meeting and was well attended by representatives from ACPO, the Police Federation, the National Policing Improvement Agency, the Superintendents' Association and other important stakeholders.
The vast majority of media coverage of the event consisted of largely balanced reporting, with one notable - if not surprising - exception, the Daily Mail
In fact, the Daily Mail's interpretation of the statement and its intentions is almost exactly the opposite of the reality. The cases the Mail has quoted are exactly the sorts of examples of bravery we recognise as being those in which officers make split second decisions to put their lives at risk for the benefit of society. The statement endorses the legitimacy of officers' so doing.
Our statement clearly sets out that police officers are entitled to reasonable protection from police forces from unnecessary risk at work along with every other employee (for example, the right training and equipment).
However, unlike most other employees, police officers will sometimes have to make decisions in difficult, fast-moving circumstances that may result in them putting their lives at risk for the greater good to society and protection of other people's lives. In some cases where individual officers have put themselves at risk there may have been a breach of health and safety law however it would not emphatically not be in the public interest for HSE to take action against these heroes. Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Police Service', recognises that.