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Police Scotland reported to Health and Safety Executive over breath tests

Police Scotland officers - Image credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images

Police Scotland reported to Health and Safety Executive over breath tests

Police Scotland has been reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over fears the use of breath tests for drink driving during the coronavirus outbreak may be putting officers at risk.

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) is concerned that police could become infected with coronavirus when testing suspected drink drivers.

The body, which represents the majority of police officers in Scotland, said it had taken the “extraordinary” step of contacting the HSE after being dissatisfied with the Police Scotland response to a formal health and safety improvement notice served on 30 April.

It fears that breath tests are a risk to officers as the suspect could spray droplets infected with COVID-19 over them as they are blowing into a breathalyser.

It warns the risk is even higher when using breathalysers inside police stations than at the roadside and calls for either full PPE to be provided or alternative testing procedures, such as urine samples, to be used instead.

The letter, from SPF general secretary Calum Steele, says: “At the heart of this particular issue is the safety of whether asking any member of the public to empty their lungs in the immediate proximity of a police officer into a narrow tube which accelerates expelled breath is a safe procedure to be performed at all or if performed, what PPE is required.

“We are clear that the operational guidance issued by the PSoS [Police Service of Scotland] on this matter creates unnecessary risk for officers and that safer alternatives and procedures are available.

“We reminded the PSoS as recently as the 15th May that their reason for not following safer alternatives do not respect hierarchical risk management processes.

“We are also clear that alternative approaches in no way hinder the ability of the police to respond to and detect those who drink and drive or introduce greater risk to the system of work.”

Responding to the complaints, Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “We follow the advice and direction of Health Protection Scotland, the Health and Safety Executive 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.”

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