The Braidwood inquiry report into the use of energy weapons (tasers) is readily available on the internet. Regular readers of SafetyAtWorkBlog would know that I consider tasers to be a item of personal protective equipment (PPE) for enforcement officers.
Determining whether PPE is the most appropriate hazard control measure usually involves the application of the Hierarchy of Controls. The hierarchy is not applicable for all workplace hazards, particularly in the control of psychosocial hazards, but it’s a good place to start.
While reading the executive summary of Canada’s Braidwood report, one part in particular reminded me of the hierarchy – page 17.
Although the definitions for “assaultive behaviour” in both use-of-force continuums can be traced back to the Criminal Code’s language for common assault, they also justify use of the weapon when there has been only an attempted common assault, and even when no criminal offence has been committed. I concluded that the subject behaviour threshold should be met when the subject is causing bodily harm or the officer is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the subject’s behaviour will imminently cause bodily harm. Even then, an officer should not deploy the weapon unless satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that no lesser force option would be effective, and de-escalation and/or crisis intervention techniques would not be effective.
Let’s see if the hierarchy can apply.
Can the subject behaviour be eliminated? – No
Substitution doesn’t seem relevant.
Can we engineer out the threatening behaviour? – Barriers, shields… perhaps but the presence of these items may also inflame the behaviour, increasing the hazard.
Can administrative controls be applied to the hazard? Unlikely, unless the subject was cooperative or able to accept instruction or read signs, in which case, the hazard may not exist.
That leaves PPE, in this case a Taser.
The report places a considerable number of criteria that the enforcement officer must apply prior to using the taser and these should be considered administrative controls but as these apply to the enforcement officer and not the subject, they would not come under the hierarchy of controls.
I welcome readers comments on this rumination on Tasers as PPE, and/or the application of the Hierarchy of Controls to a police situation.