Police Scotland reported to Health and Safety Executive over breath tests

Police Scotland has been reported to the health and safety watchdog over the use of breath tests on suspected drink-drivers due to fears that officers may be exposed to coronavirus.

May 19, 2020
By Website Editor

The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said there were safer alternatives that should be used in the fight against drink-driving.

In a letter to members, general secretary Calum Steele said the SPF had taken the “extraordinary step” of reporting the force to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, he said senior officers had failed to engage with their concerns for two weeks.

He said: “The simple reality is that we’re asking police officers to perform a procedure when much safer alternatives are available that have in no way, shape or form a hindering ability on the police service to tackle the scourge of drink-driving.”

In discussions with the SPF after 14 days the force said their position on the use of breath tests was “defensible”, Mr Steele told the programme.

He said that in obvious cases of “blind drunken driving” other powers could be used that did not require a breath test.

Asked if people were still drink-driving during the lockdown, he said: “Astonishingly, yes.

“I suspect the reason has probably got a lot to do with the fact that people are probably consuming more alcohol at home.

“The numbers of breath tests being carried out on a monthly basis are genuinely astonishing and equally astonishing are the number of individuals that are failing them.”

The SPF’s panel of scientific and medical experts supported its stance. The organisation says testing urine samples would be a safer alternative to identify drink-drivers.

Police officers who carry out roadside breath tests have been told to wear masks and gloves, with the option of tougher PPE (personal protective equipment) if coronavirus is suspected.

In response to the SPF’s claims, Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “We follow the advice and direction of Health Protection Scotland (HPS), the HSE and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) 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. We have sought to assist HPS, the HSE and the NPCC to clarify guidance with a focus on policing scenarios and we have passed information provided by the Scottish Police Federation to those organisations to support that work.”

She added: “We recognise our moral, ethical and legal duty to the safety and welfare of our officers and staff and will continue to work with staff associations and unions as policing continues to play its vital role in the national effort to combat coronavirus.”

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