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2015 General Officer Safety Finalist
The Fairfax County (VA) Police Department has taken the unique step of creating a dedicated Safety Officer position within the Department. The Safety Officer is responsible for monitoring safety conditions and developing measures to assure the on-scene safety of all officers. This dedicated Safety Officer oversees safety during specific incidents, such as barricades, major crashes, and large-scale events. The Safety Officer promotes and develops general occupational safety policies and training.
In addition to managing on-scene safety, the Safety Officer also focusses on incidents of hazardous material and disease exposure, and documents any needle sticks or other dangerous exposures reported by officers. The department’s Safety Officer monitors the proper use and maintenance of issued Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as air-purifying respirators and N95 masks and is charged with identifying environmental hazards and unsafe conditions. The Safety Officer must also investigate accidents and injuries within incidents, developing safety training programs to mitigate identified hazards.
The position of Safety Officer requires training and special knowledge to handle exposure to hazardous materials and disease. The Safety Officer must command knowledge of proper exposure terminology and the reporting requirements required by a potential exposure. Officers who serve in the Safety Officer position are familiar with medical procedures and trained in counseling personnel exposed to a disease or hazardous material. Response to officers suffering needle sticks while arresting suspects are most common in their duties.
The Safety Officer constantly assesses potential dangers and identifies gaps where safety training does not exist. The Safety Officer then develops and implements the necessary training program to address the area of concern. The department’s Safety Officers recently developed training in the areas of chainsaw use, winches, vehicle towing and even snow blower usage. This program is an active, hands-on risk management initiative, designed to recognize and correct safety issues as they develop.