Physical Intervention training is 'necessary' for Retail Security Guards

Although the SIA specification for Licence linked training for Security Guards includes a module on Conflict Management, it does not currently include any practical skills training in Physical Intervention and Restraint Skills. The SIA has explained that this was so that employer organisations could determine for themselves by Health & Safety Risk Assessment whether or not training in these additional skills was necessary.

Well, can you imagine a Health & Safety Risk Assessment of a Retail Security Guard role that would not immediately identify a need for Physical Intervention & Restraint Skills training? As your answer to the question demonstrates, the need for Retail Security Guards to have the training is self-evident!

Click on the bars below to read more about the legal necessity of providing Retail Security Guards with 'suitable guidance, instruction and training' in Physical Intervention and Restraint Skills and the potential consequences of not doing so.

Warning: An SIA Licence does not mean fully trained for the role

Ignorance may sometimes be bliss - but it is not an excuse in law!

When Physical Intervention goes wrong (or doesn't happen at all) the consequences can be disasterous and even fatal.

Organisations that employ, or hire in Retail Security Guards should be aware that although they may be sufficiently trained to qualify for an SIA Licence, they may not be adequately trained to meet statutory Health & Safety requirements.

No training or inadequate training could mean automatic conviction - where cases and claims are settled without any evidence needing to be produced by the prosecution on the grounds of 'Res ipsa loquitor' - 'The facts speak for themselves'.

It may also be interpreted by the employer organisation's insurers as a significant breach of Health & Safety expectations - entitling the insurer to claim back from the insured the full costs of any compensation paid out to third parties under the policy. On top of that a failure to immediately remedy the 'safety shortcoming' could also result in a suspension of the Employer's Public Liability Insurance - requiring a full stop in trading.

Given the advantages and affordability of the AEGIS Programme, it really does make sense for employer organisations to either provide their Retail Security Guards with AEGIS training - or else insist their security provider only supplies Guards that have been AEGIS trained.


Shoplifter Dies Following Restraint

On 30th July 2009, shoplifter Aaron Bishop died after being restrained by up to six Security Guards at the Quadrant Shopping Centre, Swansea. Bishop had alledgedly stolen a £35 bottle of Joop perfume from Debenhams department store.

One of the Security Guards, Sam Bawden, 25, was subsequently charged with manslaughter. The case was heard at Swansea Crown Court in October 2010. Patrick Harrington QC, prosecuting the case for the Crown, said Mr Bawden had used "wholly inappropriate and excessive means to restrain Mr Bishop." He told the jury Mr Bawden had grasped Mr Bishop tightly round the throat for a period of 10 minutes. Mr Harrington said that passers-by variously described him holding Mr Bishop in a "headlock" or "choke hold", saying his face was turning blue/purple and covered in sweat. During the trial, it emerged that Tony Williams, one of the Security Guards involved had been questioned by police and asked about Positional Asphyxia and that Williams had replied that it was the first time had ever heard the expression and that his employers had not provided training in the subject.

Mr Bawden was ultimately cleared of the charge by the jury. However, the case clearly highlighted the need for Retail Security Guards to be provided with training not just in Conflict Management and Escorting Skills but also in Physical Restraint.

Retail Security - Sector Guidance on Physical Intervention Published 2010

In October 2010, the SIA, in conjunction with Skills for Security, the British Retail Consortium and other industry experts published sector specific Guidance on how to reduce the risks associated with physical interventions.

The free guidance, titled "Physical Intervention: Reducing Risk" is aimed at retail businesses where violence against staff is a concern and for the providers of security services to the Retail Industry. It is particularly relevant to security and loss prevention functions, whether performed as a dedicated role within a large store or an adopted role, for example by a manager in a small retail outlet.

The Introduction to the Guidance states:

"The aim of this guidance is to help reduce the incidence and impact of injury to employees and customers through promoting good practice and better training. The guidance will benefit employers by showing practical steps they can take to better protect their staff and customers from harm and their businesses from potential litigation."

Further down, it continues:

"Research identifies that staff working within the retail sector are often called upon to deal with criminal behaviour, anti-social behaviour and customer disputes. There will be occasions when physical intervention may be considered as a legitimate option to control a situation, example in arresting a thief or preventing an assault.

Staff engaging in such activity risk allegations of unlawful arrest and excessive force. There is also the potential for serious injury to staff and those they are dealing with and for a restraint related death.

Such scenarios have a devastating impact on individuals and businesses. If physical intervention cannot be stopped, it should be reduced and only used as a last resort when other responses have failed or are likely to fail. This guidance first considers preventative measures and alternatives to physical skills. It then examines steps that can be taken by employers, in terms of training and guidance, that will help ensure a safe outcome when physical intervention is legitimately used.

You should implement this guidance if you are an owner or operator of a retail business where it is foreseeable that employed or contract staff will use physical intervention, or, if you are a provider of security services to retail businesses.

This guidance has relevance for all retailers including those who do not employ dedicated security and loss prevention/ profit protection staff, as store managers and staff may have security responsibilities as part of their wider role and be at risk."

Note: You can view/download the Guidance Document free (.pdf) from the Skills for Security web site.

Physical Restraint Training - HSE Expectations

The Health & Safety Executive's expectations of employers whose staff commonly need to physically intervene in situations to prevent harm (for example, those employed in the Security Industry, Police Forces, Prison Service, Healthcare, Mental Health Institutions, Education and Social Care) are detailed in HELA Local Authority Circular Ref: "LAC No. 88/2" dated October 2000 and Field Operations Directorate Circular 213/2 dated 08/09/2004.


Employers are expected to have taken appropriate steps to minimise any risks to employees that might arise from physical intervention and these steps will include ensuring that appropriate systems of work are in place (including appropriate policies, communication systems, manning levels and emergency procedures) to enable the safe application of physical restraint.
It would be appropriate for the employer to clearly state what form of restraint should be used and what forms should not be used.
Staff should be trained to know how to monitor the subject and what to do in the event of distress being noted.

Are Management at risk of going to jail?

When Physical Intervention goes wrong (or doesn't happen at all) the consequences can be disasterous and even fatal.

Organisations that employ, or hire in Security Operatives should be aware that although they may be sufficiently trained to qualify for an SIA Licence they may not be adequately trained for their role in terms of Health & Safety expectations - meaning a real risk of adverse incidents, complaints, allegations, claims for compensation and prosecution in the civil and criminal courts - with the possibility of a jail sentence for management officials.

Under S. 36/37 H&S at Work Act 1974, individuals within an organisation (including directors) can be charged with criminal offences where, through consent, connivance or neglect, they contribute significantly to serious harm occurring and the Health and Safety (Offences) Act, which came into force on 16 January 2009, provides for the imprisonment of individuals convicted of a breach of sections 7, 8, or 37 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 ("HSWA"), or regulations made under the HSWA.

Magistrates can now impose 12 month prison sentences on any director, manager, secretary, or other similar officer of a corporate body, or person(s) who purported to act in that capacity. A Crown Court can impose sentences of up to 2 years. In addition to introducing prison sentences, the Act also increases the maximum level of fines available to magistrates for breach of health and regulations from the current £5,000 per offence to £20,000 per offence. Unlimited fines remain available to judges sentencing in the Crown Court.

So, managers who have responsibility for organisational policy, procedures, instructions and guidance to staff and/or commissioning staff training in relation to the management of dangerous or violent behaviour who, through consent, connivance or neglect, have contributed significantly to serious harm occurring (i.e. as a consequence of failing to implement 'appropriate arrangements'), could potentially be sent to prison!

Note: Following convictions, prosecutors can obtain orders under the provisions of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 (CDDA), to disqualify individuals from being directors for up to 15 years (i.e. on conviction in the Crown Courts).