Covid-19 and security: protecting our people

No superlatives or hyperbole can fully do justice to the times we live in today, neither can they adequately describe the response from the front-line security officer.

In calls I have been making to our own teams, I have been genuinely humbled by the positivity and enthusiasm our people are showing in the face of such unprecedented adversity.  I am also reminded of how such positivity is completely at odds with the (sadly) negative stereotypes played out in the media of a workforce being exposed to unnecessary risks, forgotten and abandoned by their employers.

The truth, as most of us working in this industry know, is that we have always put the welfare of our people first and foremost in our thinking. Our people are, as has been said many times before, our most important asset, without whom we don’t have a service to sell.

Protecting them from any potential vulnerability is in our DNA.

So, what have we been doing to help our officers and our clients navigate through these challenging times, and what lessons can we learn going forward?

Consultative approach

Our first action, and an ongoing process, is one of consultation, speaking with our officers and continuing to engage with them to understand any potential health concerns or vulnerabilities that they may have. It was (and is) important to know, for example, whether they are shielding anyone at home, and we must take into account the views of all employees, including any fears and anxieties surrounding their return to the workplace.

Taking advantage of Government testing is also a priority. With the Government extending its coronavirus testing to more front-line workers, we have registered with the relevant body so that officers and staff with symptoms (or symptomatic members of their household) have access to the tests being offered. We see this as essential to helping protect our employees, their families and our customers.

A business is only as good as the people at the top, and to that end we rely on our managers and supervisors to keep a close eye on the teams they are responsible for. Online training has been developed and this is especially helpful in supporting those managers to monitor the health (including mental health), safety and welfare of their colleagues as well as in promoting safe systems of work, and we have also been equipping our officers with appropriate protective clothing where it is required.

Indeed, this is an important point: the majority of the sites that we work on are client run, and as such, we, as contractors, have to align with the newly designed plans introduced by our customers. Many of our teams are experiencing a new ‘norm’, including changes to procedures, workstations, processes and protective equipment or clothing.

Navigating the new normal

We have also been advising customers in how they can navigate the ‘new normal’ with a specific guide (entitled Navigating the New Normal) that highlights a number of key areas of consideration.

It is imperative, for example, that there is early engagement with landlords/managing agents to ensure priorities can be identified and that a remobilisation phase is considered prior to any building being re-occupied. Occupancy levels need to be reviewed, as well as new processes for the use of lifts and stairwells.

There are practical considerations for how security officers’ roles and responsibilities will need to shift, from mapping out new mobile patrols to bringing in new technology to, for example, maximise contactless processing of visitors, or using thermal imagery – which will bring with it the need for extra training.

Reception spaces may also need to be rearranged to allow for the appropriate social distancing or privacy screens installed at welcome desks to bring more protection and reassurance to people.

These are just some of the measures that will need to be reviewed but are essential for keeping people safe, and risk assessments and reviews will continue to evolve. We, like many other organisations in our sector, have signed the C-19 Business Pledge and in doing so agree to work with our peers in helping employees, customers and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, to fight COVID-19 and protect those around us.

These are truly difficult, unprecedented times but I am confident that we will see them out and emerge more resilient, stronger and ready to take on the new challenges that we will undoubtedly face.

David Mundell

Managing Director, Axis Security