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The Safety Of Our Prison Officers – Are We Doing Enough?

Written by: Robert Kaiser

Having a few friends who work or have worked in and around prisons and correctional facilities over the past many years, I have listened to them over a couple of quite drinks and absorbing what is being laid out in front of me. It is truly downright scary how many officers had been injured, sliced, stabbed, viciously attacked or assaulted… certified and ultra dependable body armour are widely available and have proven to effectively help reduce workplace violence related injuries and even death.

PPSS Stab Vests indeed offer extremely high levels of certified protection from knives, shanks, needles and blunt force (impact).

Please read our CEO’s recent article on BLUNT FORCE : The highly underreported risk faced by security professionals.

High performance slash resistant clothing has also been developed and manufactured with the personal safety of prison and correctional officers in mind. Designed to primarily protect key arteries from laceration, subsequent rapid blood loss, and even death, slash resistant clothing has changed the world of personal safety over the recent years.

Naively I honestly thought that some of the articles I have read and seen on social media were only from prisons and correction facilities from across the world and not in the UK. Oh, how mistaken could I have been.

It goes without saying that the correct level of PPE to threat ratio would depend on what level of prison/correctional facility you are in and what is provided!

Slash PRO Slash Resistant Clothing

The biggest risk: “The Bleed”

Pretty much everyone understands their body and where you can feel/find a pulse or you heart beating and how close it is to the surface of your skin. The key areas that will cause a catastrophic haemorrhage (not discounting a traumatic amputation) if accessed in such away or by chance, which is more often the case;

There is also the venous bleed, these are potentially shallower cuts producing a steady flow of blood, darker in colour than the arterial bleed. Still as significant as an arterial bleed. If there are a substantial amount of cuts to one area or person.

The small and lesser of the bleeds is the capillary bleed, this is where blood comes out slowly and in an even flow. Like when you grazed your knees as child.

But finally let’s not forget that internal bleed, the tricky one to treat! Any object used to penetrate the body deep enough can cause catastrophic internal bleeding .

——————————— Different Bleeds ———————————-

Stab injuries are incised wounds where the length of injury on the surface is less than the depth of penetration into the body, and are the result of potential thrusting action, where the force is delivered along the long axis of a narrow, pointed object (examples below). The force of impact is concentrated at the tip of the implement, and obviously the sharper the tip, the easier the object will penetrate.

Food for thought: the average adult male can lose consciousness in about 30 seconds and then death in about 3 minutes if the bleeding is not controlled or arrested, this would also depend on what area of the body has been cut and to what depth. You would be shocked at what a single pint of blood looks like on the floor.

Bearing all the above in mind It amazing when the mind is left to wonder what it can come up with and invent especially when you a whole lot of time on your hands, like some the guests held within our Prisons.

All it takes is a small amount of initiative to come up some sort of weapon that can be used to stab, slash or cut. The weapon of choice in most assaults be it domestic or on the streets include, lock knives, sheath knives and kitchen knives, highest of which being the kitchen knife. But as you can see above link within the correction and prison world, it is anything that can be made into an edged or pointed weapon, broken glass, broken tiles and even paper! ANYTHING…

Selection of edged weapons to be found within prison facilities.
Selection of edged weapons to be found within prison facilities.

Characteristics of stab/slash wounds:

  1. Potentially clean cut edges, this depends on the weapon used. Normally slit like.
  2. The wound is not normally the same size as the blade.
  3. One or both ends pointed.
  4. A singled edged knife can cause a wound, which may have one end pointed  and the other squared
  5. Non-pointed end may be squared off or split (fish tail or boat shaped defect).
  6. Often gaping (related to skin elasticity).
  7. Cross section of weapon may be illustrated when edges of wounds opposed.
  8. Underlying bone may be scored by blade, depending on depth and force of blade.
  9. Abrasions may be present.
  10. Frequently shows notching or a change in direction (caused by relative movement of the knife and body).
  11. A wound from a closed pair of scissors is a shallow “Z”.
  12. The depth of the wound maybe greater than the length of the blade. This is something you would have to bear in mind on the chest and abdomen.

Example of an open knife wound

The loss of circulatory blood volume from a bleed is the most common cause of shock in casualties which can lead ultimately to death.

So now we know where the main vascular areas are within the body, roughly how quick it takes for you to bleed out, the characteristics of a stab/slash wound, what can be used to cause the injuries and what happens if left untreated. Now is the time to act fast, meaning you have to move fast on these casualties.

How do we potentially prevent them?

If we were to look at the daily wear of our prison and correctional officers would it be such a hard task to kit them all out in stab resistant body armour. With the correct PPE I’d like to think that most, if not all of these injuries could be prevented or minimalised in some way!

Stab Vests for prison officers

Stuart Green, Founder & Director of New Zealand based Arumont Ltd said:

“New Zealand a few years ago changed its uniform from shirts/ties etc. to a more comfortable user-friendly t-shirt/cargo pants/boots. Recently they introduced stab resistant body armour and after some initial staff resistance, they are now nationwide and form just another part of the PPE and uniform to further protect staff from potential risk of serious injury or death. Contrary to speculation, they are not overly cumbersome or hard to wear and there appears to be no evidence they are provoking or intimidating to prisoners.”

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