Physical Intervention Guidance

  • Published on: 2 July 2022
  • By: Shannon

In the security industry, the use of physical intervention is integral, from the knowledge and training to the practise in a real life situation to defuse a situation. However, if excessive or incorrect physical intervention is used then the consequences can be dire.

The SIA has recently added top-up training for anyone renewing their licence which includes 'Physical Intervention Skills Training' , in order to refresh your knowledge. Despite this, it is good practise to not just rely on this training but to routinely seek guidance and even additional training. So here is some of our guidance on Physical Intervention.

Firstly, you should only use physical intervention as a last resort and never use more force than is necessary. Physical intervention can:

  • Increase risks of harm to staff and customers
  • Result in prosecution if use of force is unnecessary, excessive, or in any other way unlawful.
  • Lead to allegations and potentially loss of licence and/or your job.


Before you use physical intervention, consider the alternatives if possible.

Primary Controls:

  • following the safety and security policies, procedures and working practises of either the security company or the site/venue.
  • use the security equipment provided, e.g. radio for summoning assistance, CCTV, access control
  • being positive and proactive in service delivery.

​Secondary Controls:

  • Positive and effective interpersonal communication and conflict management skills to de-escalate situations and reducing the need for physical intervention


What is a 'last resort' situation?

These situations are examples that could be considered 'last resort' and may lead to physical intervention:

  • If physical intervention is necessary to prevent harm, e.g. someone is being assaulted 
  • When other options have failed or will likely fail, e.g. someone is intoxicated and cannot be reasoned with
  • When it is not possible or appropriate to withdraw, e.g. someone is being escorted from the premise and attack you


During physical intervention you have a responsibility to:

  • ensure the safety of everyone involved
  • use the least forceful option
  • matin duty of care to the subject following restraint
  • respect the dignity of people being restrained wherever possible
  • provide appropriate medical attention to any person who appears injured or at risk
  • if more than one member of security/staff are involved, someone should take charge of the situation while still working as a team.


Immediately after physical intervention you have a responsibility to:

  • de-escalate a restraint at the earliest opportunity
  • maintain duty of care to the subject following use of force/restraint 
  • provide appropriate medical attention to any person who appears injured or at risk
  • tell emergency service (if present) about the circumstances, position, duration any difficulties experienced during the restraint
  • preserve evidence and secure witnesses
  • all security operatives/staff involved must complete individual, detailed incident reports


Reducing the Risk of Physical Intervention:

  • You should always choose the least forceful intervention practicable
  • Avoid high risk positions including ground restraints
  • Avoid high risk methods of restraint, such as neck holds and other hold that could adversely affect breathing or circulation
  • Keep up communication between everyone involved during and after, including the subject of the restraint
  • Monitor the wellbeing of the subject of the intervention for adverse reactions
  • Ensure practise follows the procedures taught
  • Ensure leadership and teamwork happens
  • De-escalate physical intervention at the earliest opportunity
  • follow emergency procedures: Immediately release and assist subject if they complain of, or demonstrates signs of breathlessness or any other adverse reactions
  • record and report restraints in line with venue procedures



Positional (or restraint) Asphyxia- What is it?

Positional asphyxia occurs when a person is placed in a posture that prevents or impedes the mechanism of normal breathing. If the person cannot escape from the position, death may occur very rapidly. Positional asphyxia occurs mostly during ground restraints, although can also occur in other positions, e.g. when a person is held forcefully, face down or face up. 

Many people have died as a result of positional asphyxia. Death by asphyxia has gained more wide spread awareness from the shocking death of George Floyd as a result of being handcuffed facedown on the street with former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on him. Others have suffered permanent brain damage linked to oxygen deprivation. You should avoid restraints that carry a heightened risk of positional asphyxia.


What can cause Positional (or restraint) Asphyxia?

Method of restraint: Positional asphyxia typically occurs during forceful restraints involving weight or pressure on the torso. All forceful restraints on the ground carry heightened risks

Position: Forceful holds in certain positions can increase the risks. These positions include face up or face down restraint, either on the ground or another surface such as bar/counter. Also seated or standing positions where breathing and/or circulation are compromised, e.g. by being bent forward

Duration: The longer a person is held in a position and/or by a method carrying heightened risk of positional asphyxia, the more likely they are exposed to risk and subsequently potential harm and death.


What to do in a medical emergency

Follow your emergency procedures and training which can include:

  • Immediately cease the restraint 
  • Check Airways-Breathing- Circulation (ABC)
  • Place in the recovery position
  • Call appropriate emergency services
  • Commence CPR/defibrillator (if necessary and first aid trained)
  • Provide emergency services with a brief that includes anything known about the person affected that may help their assessment and treatment. Include details of any restraint including method, position and duration.


Recognising Acute Behavioural Disturbance/ Excited Delirium/Psychosis

This is a term used to cover a combination of physical and psychological factors including:

  • High temperature 
  • Bizarre behaviour 
  • Sustained mental and physical exhaustion and metabolic acidosis 
  • Psychosis, which can result from mental illness and/or be drug induced. Signs include hallucinations, paranoia and extreme fear

This combination of circumstances can result in sudden death and signs should be treated as a medical emergency.


Red Flags to Act On During or Following Restraint 

If you see any of the following 'red flags' during or following a restraint you must act immediately with the previous guidance given:

  • Effort with breathing
  • Blocked airway and/or vomiting
  • Passivity or reduced consciousness
  • Individual being non-responsive
  • Signs of head or spinal injury
  • Facial swelling 
  • Evidence of alcohol or drug overdose
  • Blueness around the lips, face or nails
  • Individual held complaining of difficulty breathing
  • High body temperature, profuse sweating, hot skin
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion, disorientation and incoherence 
  • Hallucinations, delusions, mania, paranoia
  • Bizarre behaviour 
  • Extreme fear
  • High resistance or abnormal strength


It is crucial that you keep your physical intervention knowledge and skills current for your safety and others.