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Safe Distance is an awareness of what we see as our own intimate or personal space, along with what is socially acceptable space and space when in general public areas.

Intimate space is roughly half a metre proximity, our personal space is between half a metre and just over a metre, social space is between just over a metre to around 3.5 metres and public space is between 3.5 and 7.5 metres. The various zones are important in the way we communicate but it should be highlighted that the distances may vary, depending on the personality of an individual and type of environment we are in. For example, on a busy tube ride, we do not have any control in managing our personal or even our intimate space as we are squashed in train carriages, pushed up against each other.

In health and social care, we may infringe on these zones in the course of our work, which is why communication skills are important to reassure a person in such situations. These situations may be a time of embarrassment, anxiety or fear and this may cause a person to become angry and aggressive.

The reactionary gap is an imaginary area that allows a person to respond to a potential threat. As a benchmark, two arm’s length may be sufficient distance. However, this may vary from one individual to the next and be dependent on the environment and situation.

This distance will increase if an aggressor arms them with an actual or potential weapon. Individuals should be alert to the changing circumstances and early recognition of increased frustration and anger. Visible warning and danger signs will allow for the individuals to respond accordingly. Remember that a person can move very quickly and whatever their age and level of mobility anyone may become an antagonist.

Geographical containment can be incorporated by always having a desk, chair or item in front of you so if the situation does become escalated you can use furniture to remain behind.

If you are meeting with someone in a side room or office, always ensure that you are closer to the exit or if behind a desk you have two ways of getting around it.

Remember to always think about how close you may be to an individual and that you could be invading their intimate or personal space.