By now, we all know that every workplace must have appropriate health and safety risk assessments for all areas of work. These should clearly identify if PPE is required to reduce the risk of incidents – such as physical assaults – and subsequent injuries. Moreover, if required, what such PPE should consist of.
The absolute duty to undertake sufficient risk assessments underpins the whole framework of health and safety management in the workplace and its significance cannot be stressed enough. Sadly however, I still come across professionals working in and around the security industry that will claim they “don’t have a risk assessment for this job role or this type of PPE.”
How can this still be happening today? If a hazard, risk or threat has been identified within that activity, then a risk assessment must be carried out by law. If an employer fails to carry out a risk assessment, or refuses to do so, they are acting unlawfully.
Just in the UK alone, my firm’s customer base consists of privately owned security companies and security departments within public transport companies and healthcare and educational facilities. Each customer and each individual team within may face different operational risks and threats; these range from dealing with edged weapons and hypodermic needles to blunt force – being punched, kicked or hit by a blunt object.
I think you can now begin to imagine why I am astounded when people consistently tell me that “there is no risk assessment” for professionals who, as part of their daily duties, may well be subjected to these kinds of risks every day.
An undeniable fact
It is shocking that some organisations are, knowingly, not completing sufficient risk assessments when putting their staff in environments where the risk of injury or harm is realistic. Here in the UK, the law is clear; The Health and Safety Executive Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 states: ‘Where any uniform or clothing protects against a specific risk to health and safety, it will be subject to the regulations.’
It further states that: ‘The regulations apply to the provision of PPE [such as body armour] where staff are at risk from physical violence.”
Another part of the above regulations which is worth mentioning is that: ‘PPE should only be used where it provides additional protection from residual risk. It must be identified as required as part of a risk assessment. There may be certain jobs and workplaces that would require everyone to use a specific type of PPE.’
There is simply no ‘but’ or ‘if’ in this case. It is an undeniable fact that the appropriate PPE must be supplied for those facing identified risks, where de-escalation may have failed, where avoidance is not appropriate and where a residual risk remains.
PPE must be fit for purpose
When selecting PPE, you must establish that the type you are considering is indeed fit for purpose and you must think about the precise job itself and of course the risks for which protection is needed. This assessment is required to ensure that the employer (who, as we have established, must provide this by law), chooses the right PPE which is appropriate for the established risks involved and for the circumstances of its use.
Within the UK security sector specifically, one of the most discussed types of PPE is body armour. When considering the aforementioned points therefore, the employer must equally ensure that the most appropriate body armour is being issued to all frontline staff charged with professional responsibilities that expose them to particular risks. Such exposure includes being at risk of getting stabbed, facing aggressors with needles or being hit by intoxicated members of the public or anyone using physical force to avoid arrest or identification.
Most security professionals in the UK will understand that the most common threat is indeed the risk of blunt force attacks. Just ask yourself, how many colleagues do you know who have been shot, stabbed, punched, kicked or hit? This is of immense significance as the understanding of this fact will, or must, have a major impact on the selection of the most appropriate PPE; in this case, body armour with a high and certified level of blunt force protection can be deemed as the right choice.
The obligation to wear appropriate PPE within all EU member states is no different in context to the UK’s obligation to protect its own workforce.
The European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work (Directive 89/391 EEC), adopted in 1989 (which then had to be transferred into law by 1992), was a major achievement and subsequently improved health and safety at places of work significantly. Whilst this does ensure a minimum level of health and safety within Europe, it also permits all member states to establish more rigorous measures.
In addition, in 2004 the European Commission issued a statement specifically in terms of the essential requirement for suitable and appropriate PPE, such as body armour, along with the legal requirement for organisations to conduct risk assessments.
In Europe, there is no escaping the legal duty of care that we have to our employees. We must provide appropriate levels of protection and we must conduct an assessment to determine the threat, implement mitigation measures and establish and protect against the residual risk. For security professionals, body armour is often the only solution to mitigate that ever important residual risk which we sadly cannot eliminate.
To find out more information about Kaiser and PPSS Group, visit: https://www.ppss-group.com/
This article was originally published in the April edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.