Anti-ligature – what does it mean?

In order to understand the term “anti-ligature”, let’s start by dropping the negative prefix and defining the word “ligature” itself. A ligature is something that is used to tie or bind objects to each other tightly. This means that anti-ligature is the prevention of such tying or binding.

Anti-ligature devices are meant to prevent vulnerable people from accidentally or intentionally self-harming. These types of products are used in hospitals, mental health facilities, police station cells, prisons, young offenders’ institutions, migrant detention centres and similar facilities. They not only include luminaires, but the entire interior design – from the physical design of the rooms to the various items used within.

Ligature risk occurs when a room contains ligature risk points, which can be anything that could be used to create a sustainable attachment point for a cord, rope, shoelace or other similar material a suicidal person could use for strangulation. Common attachment points include doors, hooks, handles and window frames.

Three types of anti-ligature measures can be distinguished: load-release and fixed anti-ligature devices, and solutions that can be classified as weapon deterrents.

Load-release anti-ligature products are designed so that any excessive strain will cause them to release, loosen or come away from their fixing point. They may contain two or more parts, where one part gives way under excessive weight or strain, making hanging impossible.

Fixed anti-ligature products are more robust and physically designed to prevent their use as a firm hanging point. They typically feature curved edges and tamper-proof entry points that can’t be picked apart even with self-made tools.

Weapon deterrent solutions are devised in such a way that none of their parts or components can be broken off or be removed by anyone in order to be used as a weapon on themselves or others.

When lighting saves lives

The suicide rate in prisons and psychiatric hospitals is several times higher than in any other area. The most common method in these areas is suicide by hanging, and it’s also the second most chosen method and one of the most common causes of suicide in the UK – accounting for 59% in males and 45% in females. Worldwide, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year – one every 40 seconds. Anti-ligature-classified products are one of the ways to prevent suicides in buildings where they are mounted.

Anti-ligature lighting must fulfil a number of requirements to be considered safe for these types of environments and effectively counteract potential self-harm. The luminaire design should include smooth, curved surfaces. It’s crucial for the luminaires to be robust, with a mechanical impact resistance rating of at least IK10, so they are able to withstand a direct impact of 20 joules. They must be securely attached to the ceiling or wall with absolutely no gaps, edges or protruding elements that could be used to fasten a ligature. The robust design should also make it impossible to tear the luminaires down or pry them open. The surfaces positioned against the wall or ceiling should always be filled with anti-pick mastic or concrete silicone.

Naturally, a significant function of anti-ligature lighting is to provide the proper visual comfort for its users. A relaxed ambience achieved through the appropriate light colour temperature changes can contribute to preventing or reducing increased anxiety in individuals and can make them feel more at home while receiving treatment at mental health facilities. BBL (Blue Blocking Light) and daylight focus areas can successfully be used to improve people’s circadian rhythm and sleeping patterns, which is also particularly beneficial to their mental health and wellbeing. Research shows that patients with manic depressive behaviours experience a reduction in symptoms thanks to the right light.

To ensure safety in environments with vulnerable individuals, minimum set dim levels and presence detection can be used to ensure a safe and comforting amount of light whenever it is needed. Energy-saving solutions and maintenance alerts ensure the reliability and cost-effectiveness of the lighting scheme.

Custom lighting solutions for facilities that require the use of anti-ligature products can include luminaires with circular optics, special ceiling mounting or recessed wall mounting. Correct light levels and colour temperatures throughout the day can be set with the use of smart lighting control systems, and solutions like Human Centric Lighting or Blue Blocked Light can be implemented to achieve the best results.