Physical restraint is potentially very dangerous. Recent press reports highlight the case of Julian Cole who suffered a broken neck in an incident involving Bedfordshire Police outside the Elements Nightclub in 2013. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has launched an investigation into the circumstances around the arrest and restraint of Mr Cole. It may bring justice to his family but in respect of managing risk is it too little too late?

Managing the risks of physical interventionPhysical restraint has variously been defined as: “actions or procedures which are designed to limit or suppress movement or mobility” or “The use of any part of another person’s body to prevent, restrict or subdue the free movement of the individual with the aim of controlling his/her behaviour..” Irrespective of how you define it the reality is that one person’s ability to voluntarily move is overridden by the actions of another.  This invariably results in a physical struggle which results in tension and exertion. It is in tension and exertion that damage is done.

There are a whole host of tissue types that eventually breakdown under tension; bones, joint capsules, muscles, ligaments and even nerves and blood vessels.  The resulting injuries are graded from minor partial tears, right to and including total separation of the tissue under stress; clean break, total dislocation or ligament avulsion.  In addition to this the outcome of exertion results in symptoms ranging from respiratory distress,  through the build-up of harmful waste products such as lactic acid up to and including asphyxia which can be compounded by the position the person is being held in. Physical restraint is potentially very dangerous indeed.

So what is the answer? Risk manager Lee Hollins says, “Ultimately the answer to this is don’t physical restrain the person. This isn’t to say turn a blind eye or let the person engage in challenging behaviour unchecked. It is to say staff need to respond skilfully and mindfully. To do this they need to know how to stay calm and manage their own emotions. The need to understand the value of being  patient and moving forward with a goal of resolving things and not winning or besting the other person. It is about having concrete strategies, ideally person-centred ones, to explore and maintaining insight on their relative success and you progress. If there is no other alternative and a physical intervention is required to prevent immediate harm what staff need is an approved technique and an awareness of risk and how to manage it as it develops dynamically. Only then can you hope to avoid terrible outcomes such as that highlighted in the recent case...”

SecuriCare offer a range of courses designed to ensure that nominated trainers can help staff to respond safely and effectively to any ‘Challenging Behaviour’ that may occur, including the application of ‘Physical Interventions techniques’. All programmes are finalised after full training needs analysis and delivered by experienced frontline practitioners. Click to see our ‘Preventing & Managing Challenging Behaviour’ Course which includes ‘Positive Behaviour Management’ techniques designed to minimise the need for any kind of restrictive intervention. You can also take a look at our person centred Behaviour Planning Service.

Contact us for more information and to discuss your needs: E: or T: 01904 492442

Click for the full story from the Guardian