Inflatable Vests for Mounted Police - Victoria Police
Best solution to a workplace health and safety issue - 2012 Awards
The Mounted Branch operates primarily to provide operational mounted support to all areas of Victoria Police. Time to time, despite all reasonable preventative measures being undertaken, a rider will fall. In the past, falls have resulted in workplace injuries that include spinal and internal organ damage. Following a 12 month development and trial period, inflatable vests have been introduced and are now worn by police on patrol and in training. During the past 5 rider falls where vests have been worn - no injuries have been sustained.
What was the issue/s at the workplace?
The Victoria Police Mounted Branch is involved in policing activities that from time to time, despite all reasonable preventative measures being undertaken result in rider falls. In the past, falls have resulted in workplace injuries that include spinal and internal organ damage. The Mounted Branch identified the potential for inflatable equestrian vests to improve safety in a Mounted Policing context. Following a 12 month development and trial period, the vests have been introduced and are now worn by police on patrol and in training. They are in use having already prevented injury to officers during falls.
What did you do to control it/resolve it?
By partnering with the manufacturer, a police specific vest was designed to provide a highly visible reflective product that could be worn externally by uniformed officers. This vest also provides additional safety for members working at night, or in traffic. A safety vest can be worn by members whenever they ride, and is supported by policy change approved by our OHS committee. Five officers have been protected by the vest during falls, mainly in training, without injury to the rider being sustained as a result of the vests introduction. Policing is a high risk industry with many specialist units conscious of the need to develop new and innovative ways to eliminate workplace injury. The concept of an inflatable vest, may with further development, have application for other police using vehicles such as ATV's or motorcycles. At the least, the vest will have broad application to other national/international Mounted Police Units, or any service that performs emergency service work from horseback. The solution is a way of mitigating the risk of injury by introducing effective PPE into the workplace in a way that has not been possible before. The inherent risks associated with Mounted policing can not be completely eliminated by design, so innovative solutions like the inflatable vest, go a long way to reducing the risk of serious injury Police Officers.
Who did you talk to about the issue/s or who helped you resolve it?
Employees in the workplace were introduced to the concept when it was identified as a concept and agreed that a full investigation of it's potential should be commenced. This was supported by our OHS committee who provided support and feedback during the design process. Management carefully utilised the OHS committee as a means to gain member support, identify equipment shortfalls and identify potential improvements - step by step. Employee input, was seen as crucial to the projects success. We continue to ask for information during the evaluation phase.
What was the outcome? How is the workplace better now?
The vests were trialled over a 12 month period, initially during controlled rider training. The trial was then extended to police work in other environments to ensure the PPE integrated with other police equipment. The innovation's performance is currently being evaluated quarterly. Every use or discharge of the vest is recorded and analysed for its effectiveness. During the past 5 rider falls where vests have been worn - no injuries have been sustained.
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