Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Police Service clarifies how HSE will apply health and safety law to the operational activities of the Police Service. It will assist senior police officers in balancing risks in their wider duties to fight crime and protect the public, while meeting their health and safety at work obligations.
Supporting guidance is provided by Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Police Service: An explanatory note.
This gives clear advice on how effective policing can be delivered without compromising health and safety. It also makes clear that police officers will not face investigation or prosecution for putting themselves at risk to protect the public. The guidance includes realistic examples to show how consideration of sensible health and safety in an emergency works in practice.
The Police (Health and Safety) Act 1997 established Chief Constables as the employer of police officers for the purposes of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. This gave police officers the protection of health and safety law while they were at work. The Police Authority remained the employer of civilian police staff.
In 2005 Clause 158 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act amended Section 51A of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; concerning application of Part 1 of the Act to police. It changed the position of chief constables as an ‘employer' and established the ‘relevant officer' as a ‘corporation sole'.
In essence this means that Chief Constables/Commissioners will not be held personally liable for any breaches of the 1974 Act within their force, except in cases where the breach is proved to be as a result of the individual Chief Officer's:
Provided none of these actions are evident, liability will be the responsibility of the “Office of Chief Constable or Commissioner”. (Home Office 2005).
All police ‘employees' whether employed by the ‘Office of Chief Constable or a Police Authority have duties under Section 7 (a) and (b) of HSWA.