Acid Attacks – What to Do if It Happens to You!


OK, yes I know what you are thinking what does this training company know about acid attacks?! Well dangerous goods are one of our specialist subjects and something we take very seriously.

‘Acid’ attacks have been very prominent in the news recently with the numbers of attacks on the rise. According to police figures these types of attacks have more than doubled in England since 2012. I need to make it clear that despite the fact attacks are on the increase compared to something like knife crime the number of incidents is tiny, I’m not trying to scare you into thinking this is going to happen to you!

It is never made clear in the media reports whether it is actually an acid or an alkali substance being used in these attacks, both of which are corrosive. I know defining the substance as an acid or alkali will not make a difference to the victims but it is important to note that both are equally as dangerous.

What to Do if You Get Splashed With Acid

Luckily for us acid attacks are not a problem in Cumbria, and we hope it stays that way. However, we all encounter dangerous chemicals in our lives and it is important to know what to do if you get splashed with a corrosive chemical.

If you are splashed with a corrosive our Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser (DGSA) Stephen Barnes advises using a lot of water to dilute and wash the chemical off the skin. Ordinary bottled water will do but you need to get to a source of running water asap. The contaminated areas need to remain under running water for at least 20 minutes.

“Care should be taken not to contaminate other areas of skin. Do not try to wipe it off with a damp cloth. If the chemical is a dry powder then brush it off” advises Stephen.

“If helping someone who is splashed with a corrosive take care to prevent yourself being contaminated. Use running water if available or bottled water if running water is not immediately available do not wipe off with a damp cloth.”

How to Prevent Acid Attacks

I’m not going to lie and pretend we have the magical answer to this, we don’t. There is a lot of reasons why these attacks happen and none of them are or could ever be a justification for committing such a horrendous crime.

Currently there is a lot of discussion on tightening the laws on access to corrosives to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. “It is difficult to see how this could be done without having a significant impact on everyday life” say Stephen.

“Corrosives are used for many applications from paint stripping to car batteries and from food production to hair dye. It would be interesting to hear suggestions on how control could be implemented, but whatever is suggested it will only work if it is policed.”

Stronger deterrents could help. People know that if caught carrying a knife the charges are more serious with higher prison sentences then if they were carrying acid. Acid is likely to get you charged with ‘GBH with intent’ rather than attempted murder.

The problem needs to be approached in three ways – make corrosive materials less readily available; introduce tougher sentencing; and educate people more on the lifelong effects of these attacks.

It will be interesting to see what changes are brought in to try and help prevent these attacks but we will try and help keep you up to date with changes in legislation that may affect you.


See our Dangerous Goods page for more information.

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