The Mental Health Environment
When designing a living environment for mental health service users, a number of factors are at play.
Firstly, you have the challenge of creating a safe environment where the element of risk is greatly reduced or minimised. Behaviours in mental health facilities are often unpredictable, which could lead to dangerous and sometimes even life-threatening situations. Designing a space where this risk is minimised is key when considering furniture and appliances.
Secondly, you should consider the aesthetics of the environment. Research suggests that the design of mental health settings can reduce stress and aggression amongst service users (Ulrich et al. 2018). When designing a mental health facility, attention must be placed on creating a calm, pleasant atmosphere.
Taking these key factors into account, every design choice you make can either positively or negatively affect the service user.
Decisions about the design, planning and management of such an environment can enhance or restrict a patient’s sense of belonging. They can increase or reduce feelings of physical security, promote or reduce mobility, and improve or have a negative outcome on patients’ health.
Today we’ll be exploring what makes the best radiator covers for mental health settings. Read on to find out more…
7 key Features to Look Out For
When choosing your radiator covers, we recommend that you take certain features into account. Use the following list as a ‘crib sheet ’ - if necessary - and ask yourself
‘Does my radiator cover meet these specifications?’
An anti-ligature product is one that minimises the risk of a person attaching anything to it that could inflict harm to themselves or anyone else. When choosing a radiator cover, we recommend that you always consider whether there are any ligature points.
2. No sharp or Jagged edges.
This one seems a little obvious, but it’s worth running your hand along the whole cover, including the bottom, back, and sides. Any sharp element could be used to self-harm individuals or other service users. Additionally, sharp/jagged edges could be used to inflict further damage to the cover.
Sharp elements can also be created by grilles that are placed over the ‘fold’ of the radiator cover. When someone aggressively runs their skin along a fold that contains grilles, it could act as a self-harming tool.
3. Robust edges and bullnose corners.
Bullnose corners are essentially rounded corners that provide a smooth edge. Traditionally used in construction and masonry, bullnose corners are an excellent feature to look out for when considering a radiator cover for safety purposes.
We recommend a metal that is 1.5 mm thickness or above. This will provide you with the quality and longevity that is required in mental health environments. A product that is less likely to get damaged is something worth noting. 1.5mm metal might not seem like a lot, but when compared to a 1.2mm casing, the difference is substantial.
There are times when a thicker metal is necessary. We have in the past made covers from 2 to 3mm thick Zintec Steel for areas that are notorious for being vandalised, such as 136 suites/de-escalation rooms.
5. Small grilles.
Linking in with the anti-ligature feature, it’s important to consider the size of the grilles. Many individual NHS Mental Health Trusts have adopted the advice outlined in the Home Office Police Buildings Design Guide – Custody, July 2009, Section PD3.02.14, which details that grilles, unless otherwise specified, should be perforated with 2mm holes, in a triangulated pattern.
The section in the Home Office document specifically relates to ventilation grilles-but it’s the only official government guidance in relation to hole size-that exists.
6. No gaps on joints.
We recommend you choose a full-framed design with minimal gaps on joints. For individuals who are looking to damage appliances, you should look to avoid any opportunities for objects to be placed or wedged in any joins within the design.
7. Minimal gaps from frame to wall.
Whilst it is virtually impossible to create zero gap between cover and wall-particularly when larger radiator covers are required-you should always seek for ways to reduce frame to wall gaps as much as possible.
Look to see if installers use ‘anti-pick mastic’. Anti-pick is specifically designed for providing a finger pick resistant seal, accommodating small movement for areas where a normal sealant is not hard enough.
Get these seven key features underpinned, and you’ll be providing patients with the highest possible quality of care. Many of the key features outlined above could be applied to several appliances when considering the design of your mental health setting.
The key point here is that you want to ensure your choices reflect a need for longevity, safety, and quality.
Let’s say you’ve made the decision to choose a full-framed, robust radiator cover. A key consideration here, however, is how you clean a radiator that might appear to be difficult to access. With hygiene being such a high priority in mental health environments, maintaining cleanliness should not be a difficult task.
With that in mind, look for a cover with an opening that can be removed efficiently whilst ensuring that no gaps arise at any point between frame and door.
At this point, consider how the radiator cover opening can be accessed. Do you need a particular key to secure the frame to the door? The best radiator covers are ones that only provide cleaning access to authorised personnel via a locking key.
Going That Extra Mile
When choosing the best radiator covers, aim for a product that goes that extra mile. Does it have features that you hadn’t even considered a priority?
Radiator covers that are coated in anti-microbial protection, such as BioCote® provide protection against a wide range of microbes such as bacteria, mould, and even some viruses.
Additionally, you should aim to request a free of charge site survey to ensure that your needs are truly met, with the most suitable product for the environment that the covers are going to be installed in.
The best radiator covers are the ones that go beyond the obvious safety standards and offer additional features that are also of high importance.
It's Ok to Consider The Aesthetics
There’s an assumption that functionality and safety override the actual look of a product. In many cases, this is true. You don’t want a product that looks great but doesn’t serve its primary purpose.
But…A radiator cover that is both safe, functional and aesthetically pleasing makes for an effective all-round product.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, a calm, aesthetically pleasing environment can positively impact service users’ mental wellbeing. Therefore, appliances such as radiator covers should be designed to fit in with the environment’s overall aesthetic. They shouldn’t be ugly. They shouldn’t stand out.
When choosing the best radiator covers for your environment, we recommend that you don’t compromise on the aesthetics. Choose an option that is bespoke to your needs.
Click here to download Contour’s colour psychology Ebook.
Explore a range of colour options. Discuss a range of sizing options.
There are a lot of considerations when choosing the best radiator covers for your mental health environment. However, these considerations are of equal importance. Like a game of Jenga, remove one key element and the whole thing becomes unstable, eventually falling.
When working within sensitive and caring environments, we believe that you can’t afford to compromise on any key features. If you’d like to discuss how to achieve an environment with safety and quality in mind, we’d love to hear from you.