Back to Basics: is your body armour affecting your health?

Wearing body armour for long shifts could be contributing to officer injuries, the chair of South Wales Police Federation has warned as part of a new awareness campaign.

Steve Treharne says that wearing full kit in cars or office seating could be putting members’ physical health at risk.

Steve was speaking as the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) launches its Back to Basics awareness drive.

Coinciding with World Wellbeing Week, the drive aims to highlight the effects of wearing body armour for long shifts over a period of time could have on the body. It also aims to educate officers about prevention and the help available.

Steve said: “We’ve launched our Back to Basics drive to make members aware of the potential risks of wearing body armour and full kit excessively over long periods.

“Body armour is really important and it should be worn when needed. But it’s a lot of weight to be carrying around long-term, while office furniture and vehicle seating aren’t designed for officers in body armour.

“When you’ve finished the job and it’s appropriate, when you’re in the car or back at the station, that’s when to take it off and give your body a break.”

Research by a working group, set up by the Federation’s Wellbeing Sub-Committee to examine the issues, found problems not only with the weight of the plates used but also the weight of what officers carry such as mobile units and kit.

The group established officers were being referred to treatment centres with back, shoulder and neck pain, which could be caused by wearing body armour.

Steve Hartshorn, the PFEW National Board lead for operational policing, writing in a blog for World Wellbeing Week, said: “To help draw attention to these issues, with the help of the specialist centres we’re kickstarting an awareness drive called Back to Basics, focusing on the damage that body armour can potentially cause to the wearer if worn excessively and ways to prevent harm.

“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.”

He added: “Over the next few months, we will be working with experts from Flint House, the Police Treatment Centres (Harrogate and Auchterarder) and the North-West Police Benevolent Fund to share ways to help ease the strain on your muscles and skeleton.

“They have some 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.”

Find out more about the Back to Basics campaign.