Hidden dangers to prove why anti-ligature products are essential

  • 27 Jan 2020

Contour explores some of the less-obvious dangers that’ll prove why anti-ligature products are an essential resource.

It’s a sad fact that those receiving psychiatric treatment are often looking for opportunities to self-
harm, or worse. Every inch of a room is considered as a means to cause damage to themselves or
the environment around them. The result of this has led designers, architects and ward managers to consider ligature risks when re-designing or upgrading a mental health facility.

Here are eight hidden dangers that prove why anti-ligature products are essential:

1. Weaponisation

Many Service Users will look to vandalise furniture to an extent where they can make weapons for self-harm, or demonstrate anger and frustration to others. This can be made easier for the Service User if there are ligature points, or poorly made and outdated furniture. Anti-ligature products provide robust casings around some of the key ligature points found in mental health facilities. These include radiators, light switches, and televisions.

2. Ligatures Below The Head

It’s very easy to assume that hanging takes place above head-height. Whilst this is very true, studies show around 50% of hanging suicides are not fully suspended—ligature points below head level are commonly used.

The Care Quality Commission highlights that the risk posed by a ligature point is greater if the ligature point is between 0.7 metres and 4 metres from the ground, further demonstrating that ligatures which are not fully suspended pose the same risk to those which are.

We’ve found that even ligatures below 0.7 metres pose a danger, which is why it’s worth assessing furniture legs.

3. Electrocution

The term ‘anti-ligature’ speaks for itself, but many anti-ligature products provide protection for common electrical products, such as televisions and light switches. Those anti-ligature electrical products therefore serve as a double-edged safety measure, minimising the risk of Service Users attaching ligatures, whilst preventing electrocution if certain products are tampered with.

4. Gaps

Whilst some furniture may not appear to have any obvious ligatures, a lot of fixed furniture can have gaps around joints. This makes attaching a thin cord fairly straightforward, and thus increases the risk of self-harm or suicide.

Gaps from fixed furniture to wall, or from an uneven wall is also a hidden danger to be aware of, particularly behind radiators. In this event, ensure that installers use anti-pick mastic behind the fixed furniture. This will minimise the opportunity for individuals to secure a ligature.

5. Pipework

This links with ligatures being below head-height, as mentioned previously. We have found that older buildings sometimes contain exposed pipework, which is an obvious ligature risk, despite not being as noticeable as bed-posts or shower rails. Pipework can be covered with a range of anti-ligature casing options to minimise the risk caused by exposed pipework.

To conclude, in order to truly minimise the potential ligature risks in a mental health setting, designers, architects, and ward managers need to place themselves into the shoes of someone with deep-rooted mental health issues.

This isn’t an easy task, and anti-ligature measures will evolve as awareness develops and technology
advances. Not all ligature points are obvious, which is why it’s important to be aware of those hidden, less obvious dangers.

Contour can be contacted at;
The Mansions
43 Broadway
Shifnal
TF11 8BB
Tel: 01952 290 498
Email: [email protected]

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