15 Feb 2024

Protecting the police

The effect of personal protective equipment (PPE) on police officers has been put under the spotlight in a new review of research. The study found that increasing the mass of the PPE raised the wearer’s heart rate and energy use. It can also have an impact on speed and range of motion, as well as an officer’s agility. And unisex designs were reported to cause discomfort for women with larger bra sizes.

The report, published in the journal Ergonomics, said: “Based on the available evidence police officer PPE appears to:

  1. Increase discomfort and perceived exertion during exercise, with particular focus on female discomfort.
  2. Increase heart rate and metabolic energy expenditure during exercise, with the effects increasing as the mass of the protection is increased.
  3. Decrease jumping, sprinting and agility performance with heavy PPE, but marksmanship appears unaffected.
  4. Reduce joint specific range of motion, with the design and location of the PPE having a larger impact on movement restriction than the mass of the equipment.

The review highlighted areas where more research is needed to improve police PPE. It added: “The literature is mostly focused on standard and tactical policing and there is a lack of evidence on the functionality of PPE for specialist units such as dog handling, mounted and marine policing.

“Further research is also needed on the effect that the fit of police-specific PPE can have on functional performance across different types of police activity, which might be an important factor for police performance given that poorly fitted body armour has been shown to have a negative effect on occupational performance for military personnel, firefighters and individuals working in the aerospace industry.”

Read the full article.

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