October 11, 2016

Footage emerges of man who later dies being held down face down by security staff

Mainstream press in Australia and the UK are reporting the death of a 31-year-old man in Frankston, Australia being forcefully restrained face-down by two Bunnings Warehouse retail security guards. The man later died in hospital and media sources are linking his death to the restraint.

The mobile phone footage of the incident released by A Current Affair clearly shows the guards 'pinning' the man on the ground whilst twisting his hands behind his back and kneeling on the top of his spine. The man repeatedly states "help me please", "get them off me", "I cannot breath". Blood spatter from his nose or mouth is visible on the ground next to his face.

Media sources report that in the footage a female bystander can be heard telling the guards to stop restraining him. 

'You need to be careful. He's saying he can't breathe,' the woman tells the two male security guards.

'It's called positional asphyxia. If you put pressure on his back while he's facing down, he can actually die. He's saying he can't breathe.' 

The man died 12 hours later in hospital and until the pending coroner's enquiry concludes, the cause of death is not known. 

Sources: A Current Affair (AU)  Daily Mail (UK)  Herald Sun (AU)  Bayside News (AU)  9News (AU)  


Risks of physical intervention

The potential causes of sudden death during or following physical intervention, especially from forceful restraint, include:

  • Positional Asphyxia
  • Acute Behavioural Disturbance (Excited Delirium)
  • Other unexplained heart failure
  • Devastating head or spinal injury

Positional Asphyxia Definition

Risk of positional asphyxia increases during forceful restraint when a person is held in a position that impedes their breathing and they cannot change that position. 

Death can occur from asphyxia or suffocation. With an exhausted individual, any restriction of breathing movement caused by restraint may exacerbate the condition and put the individual at greater risk of death. Any restriction of breathing may be catastrophic in individuals who are displaying signs of Acute Behavioural Disturbance (Excited Delirium) or Serotonin Syndrome. 

Individual risk factors such as a person's relative size, build, weight and age, and any underlying health predispositions will affect a person's vulnerability.

Duty of Care

Any staff member involved in a physical restraint has a duty of care to the individual. Maybo teaches that at least one staff member must take leadership responsibility during physical intervention - constantly communicating positively with the individual and monitoring their well-being.

Clear leadership and communication with colleagues and others present is also essential. The goal is always to de-escalate at the earliest opportunity and immediately if there are any health concerns. 

Physical Intervention Training

The ultimate goal of any Physical Intervention training must be to reduce or, where possible, eliminate the need for and use of restraint.

Educating staff in the risks of restraint and teaching safer methods significantly reduces the risk of restraint related injuries for staff and individuals. It is highly unlikely that the security guards involved in this tragic incident were performing a restraint they had ever been taught - the stills of the footage show exactly what all physical intervention training should be emphasising not to do.

Either they had forgotten their training, they chose to ignore what they had been taught or, more likely, they have never received any credible physical intervention training.