Concerns over Police Scotland breath test risks

Concerns over Police Scotland breath test risks

Police Scotland has been reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the use of breath tests by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF). The SPF said it was concerned that officers could be exposed to Covid-19 while conducting drink-drive tests.

The SPF, which represents 98% of all officers, issued the health and safety improvement notice about the issue to Police Scotland on 30th April. The union claims the force failed to properly engage with the concerns and it was required to take the ‘extraordinary step’ of reporting Scotland’s police force to the HSE.

In response, the police force said it was following the advice and direction of bodies including the HSE and Health Protection Scotland (HPS), and applying a ‘comprehensive operational policing risk assessment’. The guidelines issued to officers is to conduct all roadside breath tests outside whilst wearing masks and gloves. There is also the option to use tougher protective equipment if there are concerns a person might have coronavirus.

In a letter to SPF members, General Secretary Calum Steele, said: “Police Scotland operational guidance in respect of breath test procedures neither reflects best risk management practices, or properly mitigates risk to officers. Colleagues will know from their own experiences that suspects often take several attempts to generate enough lung capacity and technique to be able to successfully comply.”

The SPF is calling for alternative approaches to respond to, and detect, those who drink and drive. Urine samples should be used instead of breath tests, it says. Failing that, full protective equipment, including face masks and goggles, should be worn at all times during the breath test process.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “We follow the advice and direction of HPS, the HSE and the National Police Chief’s Council and apply a comprehensive operational policing risk assessment when developing guidance for officers and staff. Police Scotland is meeting, and often exceeding, the relevant guidelines.”

However, Ms Taylor added that the force recognises its “moral, ethical and legal duty to the safety and welfare of our officers and staff”.

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