It is against health and safety to put a coat over a handcuffed persons arms

“It is against health and safety to put a coat over a handcuffed persons arms.”

That is the crux of an email just sent to me based on what someone was told by a trainer.

They mentioned how an organisation respected a handcuffed patients dignity whilst reducing the risk of anger, aggression and violence thus reducing the need for a restrictive physical intervention.

I thought I’d share it with you as it may help some of you.

I’d be interested in your comments.

And if you are interested in becoming aproperly qualified handcuff trainer and undertaking a programme that is leggally accurate you can find out more here –

This was the email I received (shared with the sender’s permission):

“Good afternoon Mark,

I hope you and the family are well, I’ve just got myself into a discussion with a trainer for [x company] and we were discussing handcuffs in relation to human rights, I remember you talking about one company putting something over them for a short period whilst moving a person in a busier area to maintain their dignity.

The trainer I was speaking to went up the wall. However since frying my brain I couldn’t remember enough for the full counter argument.

Their only excuse was health and safety and couldn’t justify it, I obviously understand the risks of covering the cuffs but not the positive arguments.

Could you advise please.

Thank you

[Name redacted]”

My response ……

“Hi [Name redacted]

The situation you are describing was a mental health unit that had to handcuff patients to take them out to go to court, the dentist, hospital appointments, etc.

One service user was very resistant to being seen in handcuffs and used to become very agitated and sometimes aggressive with a risk of becoming violent.

The issue here was that not only was the situation creating a risk but there is also the service users human rights here, particularly Article 3 of the Human Rights Act (which is an absolute right and cannot be derogated against), which states that all public authorities must not cause torture or in-humane degrading treatment or punishment.

Now transporting someone in handcuffs is not torture (the threshold for which is very high), but the issue of potentially causing ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ by walking a handcuffed service user through a public place must be considered by all public and quasi public authorities and public officials.

On that basis, the staff and the MDT (multi-disciplinary team, involving trainers a health & safety professional, a psychologist, a legal representative and the police) did a collaborative risk assessment around the patients behavioural care plan and came up with the control measure of placing a coat over the service users handcuffed wrists when they were being taken out in public, so that it hid the fact he was handcuffed.

That one small act reduced the risk to everyone and the service user was then happy to be taken out in handcuffs and there was no degradation or humiliation with that control measure in place.

Another point to bear in mind here is that you can’t have a one-size fits all rule anymore for everyone, because that is what is referred to as a generalised restrictive practice.

Each person’s circumstances must be treated based on each individual need and risk factors.

Also, as part of any restraint reduction strategy all organisations should be looking at ways of reducing the need for restraint and dealing with the triggers that escalate behaviour.

In the case in question the organisation achieved all of that by the simple use of the coat over the handcuffed service users arms.

As for the trainer “going up the wall” that just demonstrates to me that they are still stuck in the dark ages and/or have a low level of knowledge in this field. And with regards to the comment that it was against “health & safety” that’s utter BS because it was the health and safety risk assessment process done properly that came up with this control measure that achieved the reduction in distress and a reduced risk of violence and aggression and the possible need for a restrictive intervention.

I hope that helps.

Best Regards

Mark Dawes”

PS: Check out our BTEC Level 3 Handcuff Trainer Award Courses Here – Next courses are 27th or 28th or 29th September.