In this article I would like to talk a little about physical intervention. Not in a technical way such as discussing techniques etc but more of an overview to dispel some myths and misconceptions. Contrary to popular belief physical intervention isn’t taught (at more than a basic level) to many people in the security industry. Many operatives rely on previous martial arts skills or stuff picked up in previous careers (not always a good thing either). Some will say that it is a ridiculous situation and in some cases they would be right but to be honest physical intervention skills aren’t required for many roles in the security industry and can even place an operative at more risk.
So in this article I would like to talk about physical intervention from the perspective of 3 questions:
1. What is physical intervention training?
2. Do your staff need it?
3. Where does it fit in the overall reality of dealing with violence?
What is it?
Physical intervention or its more traditionally known name of control and restraint (I consider them 2 different things but most don’t) has a lot of perception issues associated with the term(s). The mere mention of the words brings images of pyjama clad ninjas roaming the corridors of your workplace ready to deal with challenging customers in a most ninja like way (No disrespect to my ninja friends).
A common response I get from clients when asked if their employees have had physical intervention training is ” We don’t want our staff grabbing or hitting anybody” or ” that would make us liable for their actions “.
This response is also very much based on assumption and not entirely true. When we train with front-line security operatives we are commonly told about physical attacks they have suffered such as pushing, spitting, grabbing or even striking. These are physical attacks on your employees and as an employer/ manager you are responsible for their safety. Therefore, by not providing them with realistic strategies to protect themselves you may also be leaving yourself open to liability.
Do my staff need it?
Let’s take a look at physical intervention skills in context. Physical intervention skills are one subset of an overall risk reduction strategy required to keep employees safe. Think of it like a specific tool in a tool box. You can’t use the same tool for every job but when you do need that specific tool it’s nice to know that you have it available. This strategy ( your toolbox) starts long before an employee finds themselves in a situation where they might need to use it. It also has to be remembered that not every tradesman needs this specific tool and not every security operative needs physical intervention training to succeed in their role. In fact for some its counter productive. If I had a lone worker on a construction site at night a physical intervention skill set is next to useless and may give him/her the impression that they should attempt to use those skills in the event of an incident. Remember the saying “when all you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail”. This where the context is important. Get the context wrong and the skillset becomes redundant or dangerous.
Where does it fit?
The building of your violence risk management strategy (the toolbox) begins with designing robust policies, procedures and risk assessments to guide and support your employees and to reduce the likelihood of the outbreak of violence . I’d go even further and say that it begins with the recruitment process. Hire the wrong person for the job and even the best training won’t prevent an incident. These are your primary preventative measures to prevent you ever having to use the heavier tools in the toolbox. Think of these like preventative maintenance.
If that doesn’t work?
At the next level there are the soft skills of conflict management such as de-escalation and verbal dissuasion. Performed correctly a lot of violence can be identified and preemptively controlled at these levels. For this to work though the first level has to have had an input. Is this the right person for the job and have they been supported with proper risk assessment to enable them to engage at the next level. This level is about having the right number of employee’s with the right attitude and the proper soft skills who feel trusted to carry out their function. Think of it as minor repair work.
And if that doesn’t work?
However, we must also accept that there will be certain tasks, roles or situations that employees may encounter where a higher level of response is required even temporarily to ensure their safety.
It is at this level that physical intervention skills fit into the strategy. Physical intervention is an emergency response which can be utilised when the other levels have not worked. As we all know though emergency responses work much better when they are planned and practiced beforehand. This why we perform fire drills and first aid training. We hope these things never happen but if they do we have employees who are trained and competent in managing them.
The other common misconception is that physical intervention skills always involve grabbing, striking or injuring another person. This is simply not the case. A well rounded physical intervention skillset includes a range of solutions for protecting staff and the public and hurting nobody unless it is necessary. These skills can include techniques for employees to disengage from grabs or avoid assault in the first instance. If a higher level of risk is encountered, we can guide or control the aggressor safely without any injury. Even in the few cases where holding is required we have strategies to safely contain aggressors while limiting harm to all parties. Will this include hurting somebody? Potentially yes, but it leaves the trained practitioner with options at a number of levels. Some training providers no longer advocate the use of pain compliance in physical restraint. From my perspective I’d rather have the option in my skillset and not use it than not have it when it’s needed (and it will be needed). We are talking about the heavy duty tools in the toolkit here. When you need them you would rather have them because the smaller tools just won’t get the job done.
When we talk about physical intervention like that doesn’t it sound like a much safer option than turning a blind eye and hoping your staff don’t do anything silly.
Physical intervention training isn’t for everybody. But if you have employees who you know face a risk of physical violence in the course of their duty then it could be for you. Used as part of an overall violence reduction strategy physical intervention can greatly increase both your staff and customer safety.
And isn’t that what it’s meant to be all about ????