Clearing the Air

Among the concerns of using physical intervention, several long-standing misconceptions persist, contributing to dangerous misunderstandings and potentially lethal situations.

One of the most prevalent misunderstandings is the belief that if someone can talk, they can breathe.

This misconception has led to tragic outcomes, particularly in cases involving physical restraint, where individuals have died due to insufficient oxygen intake despite being able to speak.

To comprehend this issue, it’s essential to understand the mechanics of breathing and speech.

The ability to speak relies on air moving across the vocal cords in the throat.

However, adequate respiration; inhaling oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide, requires air to travel to and from the lungs.

The difference between these two functions becomes starkly apparent when an individual is struggling to breathe.

The short distance between being able to talk and being able to breathe can be life-threatening, especially when someone is under duress or being physically restrained.

There’s a big difference between fighting the people applying restraint and fighting for breath.

The consequences of getting this wrong can be dire.

Safety in Prone Restraint

One contentious aspect of physical restraint is the prone position, where an individual is held face-down on the ground.

The safety of this technique is a subject of intense scrutiny, with quite rightly concerns over the potential for asphyxiation or positional asphyxia.

While it is possible to safely restrain someone in the prone position, it requires stringent adherence to guidelines and constant monitoring.

According to experts in the medical profession and law enforcement the key to a safe prone restraint lies in limiting its duration.

Continuous pressure on an individual’s torso can impair breathing and lead to severe respiratory distress.

Therefore, it is recommend minimising the time spent in the prone position.

Individuals should be brought back up onto their feet or placed in a comfortable position (i.e. recovery style position) as soon as the person is under control and it is safe to do so.

Can Specific Intervention Techniques be banned?

Given the risks associated with certain high-risk physical restraint methods, organisations have grappled with the question of whether to ban specific techniques.

The legality of banning a particular physical intervention depends on various factors, including laws, organisational policies, and expert recommendations.

At least one state in America have taken steps to regulate or prohibit certain restraint practices, particularly those deemed high-risk or prone to abuse.

However, the extent of these regulations and guidelines can vary significantly.

In some cases, law enforcement agencies and organisations have voluntarily restricted the use of prone restraint and adopted alternative de-escalation strategies.

Dispelling misconceptions about respiratory distress and understanding the risks associated with physical restraint techniques are a ‘must-do’ towards ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone involved in these encounters.

Clear communication, informed training, and adherence to best practices are essential elements in preventing tragedies and fostering trust between external (service users/people) and internal (staff) communities.

Who is Trevel Henry?

I continue work as an expert witness which involves working with solicitors, producing reports to be supported with oral evidence in courts, inquests and organisational hearings.

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