Metropolitan Police Federation

“Police officers should protect their backs by only wearing body armour when they need to”

Police officers should protect their backs by only wearing body armour when they need to, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has said, as it launches its ‘Back to Basics’ campaign.

On World Wellbeing Week, PFEW National Board Lead for Operational Policing Steve Hartshorn – a Metropolitan Police officer and Federation Representative – said that officers around the country were suffering from back, shoulder and neck pain that could be caused by wearing body armour for too long.

As well as encouraging officers to take off body armour when they didn’t need it, the Federation said it planned to share videos and guides to help officers build their core strength.

Steve said: “We get it; we’ve all been there. You’ve dealt with a job and you’re back in the car or at the station and you don’t take off your body armour. Maybe it seems a waste of time, as you’ll only have to put it on again. Or maybe you just forget that you’re wearing it. But that extra weight you’re carrying for no reason could be wreaking havoc with your back.

“Make no mistake about it, body armour serves a very important function and should absolutely be worn when it’s needed. The problem is wearing it when it’s not needed. The human skeleton isn’t built to carry around this amount of weight long-term and it could contribute to significant health issues.”

Steve added that car seats and office seats were not designed to be sat in for prolonged periods by officers wearing body armour, and that it could all add up to unnecessary pains and strains.

“The Federation’s Wellbeing Sub-Committee set up a body armour working group to look more closely at these issues,” Steve said. “We found that not only were there problems with the weight of the plates used, but also the weight caused by what officers are carrying on their person, eg mobile units and kit.

“The group established that officers from across England and Wales are being referred to treatment centres with back, shoulder and neck pain, which could be caused by wearing body armour. The centres have created specialist classes to teach core and strengthening exercises to protect members’ backs – something the Federation is welcoming.”

The PFEW is working with specialist centres Flint House, North-West Police Treatment Centres and The Ben Fund to draw attention to the damage body armour can cause, and ways to prevent harm.

Steve said: “It really is about going back to basics and looking at what simple tweaks you can make at home or at work to help your back, neck, and shoulders.

“Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing ways to help ease the strain on your muscles and skeleton, with useful guides and videos that can help you build core strength and complement any existing training plans.

“We will also be 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 after being damaged.”

Officers should keep an eye on social media for more updates and information, Steve added.

Original Blog appeared here https://www.polfed.org/news/blogs/2021/blog-time-to-go-back-to-basics-and-look-after-yourself/