The Security Industry Authority (SIA) has published advice notes for private security operatives and security businesses on the steps to take in the event of an acid attack. The guidance is issued in the wake of a rise in acid-related attacks across the UK*.
In a statement on its website, the Regulator comments: “We are asking licence holders and security businesses to familiarise themselves with the available guidance on responding to acid attacks. This is in response to recent acid attacks against members of the public, and a very small number of such attacks against licence holders.”
Late last month, a G4S Cash and Valuables in Transit officer suffered injuries after having what was believed to be an ammonia-type substance sprayed in his face while going about his duties at the Barclays Bank branch in Briggate, Brighouse in West Yorkshire. Thieves then grabbed the cash box that the officer was holding and made their escape. The officer involved had to be taken to Calderdale Royal Infirmary in Halifax for immediate treatment.
NHS England and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) have issued First Aid guidance on how to ensure victims of acid attacks receive the right help… and fast. They’re asking people to remember the 3Rs: Report the attack: dial 999, Remove contaminated clothing carefully and Rinse the victim’s skin gently with running water.
NHS Choices has also issued more detailed guidance for the public on how to treat acid and chemical burns.
Main points for security operatives
The NHS England/BAPRAS guidance focuses on the following main points for security operatives:
(1) In the unlikely event that an acid attack occurs at a licensed premises, such as in a pub or a nightclub, sourcing bottles or jugs of tap water from the bar might be the quickest and asiest method to alleviate a victim’s suffering
(2) An acid attack involves a corrosive substance being thrown or sprayed on a person or people as part of a violent attack or robbery. Although ‘acid attack’ is the phrase most people use to refer to such incidents, these episodes can involve acidic, alkaline or caustic chemicals. Household cleaners, drain cleaners and industrial chemicals might all be used by the perpetrators of such an attack
(3) Employers and venue owners are responsible for their colleagues and patrons. Therefore, they must conduct risk assessments associated with acid attacks and plan for how to respond to them. This is subject to the Health and Safety Act 1974 as well as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. The response will include supplying appropriate equipment for dealing with an acid attack
Metropolitan Police Service equipment
Although the SIA cannot recommend individual equipment items, employers and venue owners may want to consider the following equipment which is carried in Metropolitan Police Service vehicles for police officers to use:
1 x high density recycled plastic box with seal: Metropolitan Police Service officers use this to hold their equipment safely in transit or in situ
2 x chemical resistant gloves: basic latex gloves will only provide a short (ie around 20 to 30 seconds) period of protection against a corrosive substance. For longer term use, laboratory suppliers sell thicker, purpose-built gloves
2 x anti-fog, chemical-resistant goggles: these can also be sourced using websites that provide safety equipment for laboratories
1 x 5 litre water bottle: this is the minimum amount to be used on a victim (there is no maximum) and is enough for ten minutes of constant dousing with water
2 x bottle shower caps to control the rate of water pouring from a bottle: these essentially turn a bottle of water into a shower and you can find them online under the title ‘Bottle shower head’
2 x good quality scissors capable of cutting through clothing: these are the sort of scissors you can find in larger First Aid kits and that are being used by paramedics. They often go by names like ‘tough cut scissors’ or ‘paramedic shears’
4 x face shields as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive: these can be purchased from reputable chemical suppliers
The SIA is working with other agencies including the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Fire Brigade, who are leading on this initiative. The Regulator will refresh the guidance once further information becomes available.
*Statistics released by the Metropolitan Police Service show that there were 465 violent “corrosive liquid” offences recorded in London during 2017. That’s up from 260 in 2015. Separate figures show the number of victims rose from 281 in the whole of 2015 to 487 in the ten months leading up to October 2017