International Shipping Available

Maximizing Personal Safety: Insights from a Personal Safety Expert

Today I was working with Education Leaders, Teachers, and Teaching Assistants in a school in Hays, tomorrow I will be over at an adventure playground in central London and later this week I will be working with the training teams at a psychiatric intensive care unit in the North. The variety of working as a training consultant reducing the associated risks for staff facing challenges is rewarding, varied and every day is different. The topic of Protective clothing comes up quite often. PPE is a tool in our toolbox, along with a correctly designed environment, medication and appropriately risk assessed policies and procedures. PPE can often be seen as something only Police or prison staff should have access to. Thankfully for BitePRO®, their range allows safety to be more practical and an everyday item of clothing.

Makeshift Protection: Here's One I Prepared Earlier

“I don’t bother worrying about any of that.” The TA interrupted.

“Worry about what sorry?” I replied.

“Kicks and that.” She said beaming.

“I’ve got these you see.” With that, she swept her leg across her thigh and proudly rapped at her shin with her knuckle, as if knocking on a door.

A loud knocking noise reverberated around the classroom. I looked at her for a moment, puzzled. Basking in an uncomfortable silence as I contemplated if she had a prosthetic limb – then she put me out of my suspense.

“Footy shin pads”

This is just one of the more bizarre inventions and adaptations I have seen, worming their way into workplaces as staff try to firefight and manage the associated risks they face, from those they care for or are supervising. This interaction was during a discussion with a group of Teaching Assistants about the issue of being kicked by pupils.

In another setting, staff had painstakingly collected up Pot Noodle containers, and in true Blue Peter fashion. Had cut the bottoms away, bound them with masking tape fashioning them into protective sleeves to make rudimentary arm shields. I was told, to manage the risks of bites. Not a million miles away from the style dog handlers would offer out to the jaws of a Police dog.

Non-conventional adaptations? In South Asia, such ingenuity is admired and their implementation in society are commonplace with them often referred to as ‘Jugaad’.

Jugaaḍ is a colloquialism referring to a non-conventional, frugal innovation. The Indian creativity machine utilises everything available from turning plastic bottles into green houses, and some electrical and automotive adaptations, which are as fascinating as they are terrifying. The first time I heard the phrase was during my time working in Mumbai training Ship security officers, the porter spliced together some wires stuffed them in the plug with a metal fork and invited me to charge my phone as the light in the room dimmed and flickered.

It could also refer to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way. It is also often used to signify creativity: to make existing things work, or to create new things with minimal resources.

Thankfully here in the UK we have PUWER.

PUWER: The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998

PUWER places responsibilities on businesses and organisations whose employees use work equipment, whether owned by them or not. PUWER primarily requires that equipment supported use at work is suitable for the intended use.

Items must be safe for use, kept securely and inspected to ensure they are correctly installed and do not subsequently deteriorate. They should be accompanied by suitable health and safety measures, such as protective devices and controls. Above all they should only be used for their intended purpose.

The use of a protective pad designed to be worn on a sporting field, assessed to sustain the occasional accidental knock from a football boot, isn’t an appropriate or effective approach to managing behaviour in a classroom. Nor are plastic vestibules masking taped together, regardless of whether you remove the noodles or not.

I’ve heard people saying that PPE is a last resort, and that it is only for when self-defence or ‘breakaway’ fails for extreme circumstances – and staff should be able to de-escalate or use a technique to disengage. Yes, such skills are there to manage the physical risks. However, without warning will staff even have time? What is their skills fail? BitePRO Scratch & Bite Resistant Clothing isn’t offensive, can often be worn to do most duties and above all complies with the regulations surrounding PPE with a range of sizes and styles to fit into your setting.

BitePRO Bite Resistant Jackets

Are Physical Intervention Skills enough to defend against attacks?

Breakaway and disengagement and physical intervention strategies taught to staff should be easy to recall, highly effective quick solutions to enable staff to respond to incidents. These are not one size fits all solutions to unpredictable situations, nor may a member of staff be able to get their head round defending themselves against those they care for. They may actually let a child continue to bite them, or not wish to immediately cause a person to release a pinch say who has dementia, or someone with a learning disability or difficulty who has lashed out during personal care/ woken up in ICU disorientated.

When managing the risks of biting, scratching or pinching, aside from the safety of staff, there are considerations for the potential of triggering those who have experienced significant trauma. Especially where staff may have to defend themselves or others, including other children, patients or residents.

Positive Behaviour Support and a trauma informed approach are the key to implementing an appropriate and effective behaviour strategy, not just in schools but across all sectors. However, where there exists a residual risk, a discreet item of protective clothing offers reassurance to staff. The signs and symptoms of fear can easily be mistaken for that of aggression – with pupils saying, ‘the staff member was angry with me’. No, they were scared, scared of hurting you or, of being hurt themselves. In addition to staff feeling more confident that an unprovoked and unexpected pinch or scratch won’t have the same impact – wearing protective clothing may prevent staff from having to resort to a painful breakaway technique. Which, however lawful this may be, (staff have the right to use reasonable force provided it is necessary and proportionate & taking their right to defend themselves away is a breach of employment rights), could upset or even retraumatise a patient or child who has suffered abuse in the past. It could also severely damage the trusting relationship between the staff member, the patient or child or even the family of a resident in a care home.

By combining de-escalation, positive behavioural support training with effective physical intervention and BitePRO® Scratch & Bite Resistant Clothing, your teams should have improved levels of protection and confidence when faced with the associated risks posed by those having trouble self-regulating.

According to BitePRO® CEO Robert Kaiser violence against teachers is not a country exclusive, but rather international problem, which has regrettably been featured my news outlets around the world . Based on my professional experience I wholeheartedly concur.

About the Author

Doug Melia is Director of Safer Handling and Personal Safety, Soft Restraint Equipment & Use of Force Specialist

Safer Handling is a leading provider of specialised training and consultancy services to the Education, Children's Services, and Care sector. They are accredited to offer restraint minimisation, bespoke safer physical interventions, handling & holding packages.

Their fabric Safety-cuff and Soft-cuffs are part of the soft restraint kit which is used to reduce restrictive interventions internationally.

LinkedIn Profile

Company Website