Make The Pandemic Your Trigger To Acknowledge The Security Guards

by Basil ‘Fawlty’ Gouge

Views are my own and not specific to any organization I have worked for or in. My whole career has exposed me to many scenarios in different countries, where the treatment of security guards has shocked me and this remains an issue of personal concern.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the security guards assumed role in response plans for this risk has once again tweaked this nerve…

For many, the life as a Security Guard remains a cycle of long hours, challenging working conditions, low pay and high expectations. These were just a few of the challenges facing those tasked with delivering operational security at the frontline – before COVID-19.

Enter COVID-19

The COVID19 pandemic requires that many in this same staff group should now deliver a raft of COVID-19 health safety actions, in addition, to their normal roles and responsibilities.

As ever the security guards have stepped up and delivered this addition to their job description without hesitation – this despite the challenges of dealing with an often non-compliant public, many of whom are self-proclaimed COVID-19 experts. Please take a moment to think about that task – COVID-19 checks and controls of 100s or maybe 1000s everyday, potentially raising the risk of infection to the security guards group several times over.

How many other staff groups would have stepped up without pause and delivered?

Does this tasking and the ready acceptance, not make the security guards a COVID- 19 ‘key worker group’ as some governments have labeled their medical staff? The general answer appears to be NO, as most of us simply assume the security guards will cover the gaps left by poor planning or emergency situations like COVID-19.

I ask you to pause again and think if you or your organization is guilty of this assumption?

Change your Thinking

COVID-19 is the time and opportunity for us to recognize the security guards and the regular contribution they make to business functions and operations that are beyond security and change your thinking.

Here are some regular challenges faced by the security guards:

Other Tasks – When poor planning creates a manning gap, many of us simply think we can source the on-duty security guard force to plug that gap. Sadly, this assumption is often supported by line management & building/site management who quickly deploy the security guards without thinking about the security plan. The security plan will have been developed specific for the building /site and matched with a security guard headcount for specific roles and responsibilities. Taking security guards away at random and without notice will compromise the security plan, increase risks and the likelihood of an incident.

Working Conditions & Long Hours – Many of us operate in air-conditioned offices, dressed in the latest ‘smart but casual’ (with a capital C). Spare a thought then for the security guards who invariably are dressed in immaculate pressed uniforms and polished shoes – looks great but invariably is wholly inappropriate for the functions that many discharge and for the extremes of climate that many operate in. For many of us, working days are normally 8-hours max, punctuated by breaks morning and afternoon and a lunch hour, whereas the security guards will likely work a 12-hour day to maximize income through overtime payments and see breaks taken on rotation when time allows – unless they have been deployed on ‘other tasks’..!

High Expectations – There is generally a high expectation that for any incident, the security guards will ‘respond and deal with it’. This assumption is rarely matched by adequate security guard headcount, training and physical resources falling under the collective heading of ‘flawed thinking’. The shift to technology is another good example of high expectations. As with most sectors, security is seeking to take advantage of the latest technology to improve and broaden services. However, there remains disconnect between the planning and implementation of this technology and the competency through training of the security guards. The best example of this being CCTV systems introduced at huge cost but then manned and operated by security guards on rotation for one hour of their shift. This same group having had system end user training only.

Security Guards are NOT Weather Proof – Whilst accepted that part of the security guards role is to operate in all weather conditions, there remains a gap related to the human element of such tasks. Many security guards operate with no overhead cover from extreme weather conditions or facilities to dry off / cool down respectively and shower. Many continue to operate in conditions that would prompt legal action by the HSSE organizations in developed countries.

What you can do now

I hope, this short note registers with you all, because as a collective, we can make a difference. Here are four suggested actions that each and every one of us can make to support the mindset change, most of us need and elevate the role of the security guard:

  1. Say Hello – The next time you arrive at your place of work and start the access control process that likely includes COVID-19 health safety checks and security search screening, take the time to recognize and acknowledge the role. You will be surprised how something as simple as a cheery “good morning”, could impact the working day of this group.
  2. Include the security guards in your Thinking – When you arrive for work 30 minutes late and still have the access control process to navigate before you get to your desk, don’t chastise the security guards or attempt to compromise their professionalism by ignoring process. Plan ahead, give yourself time and if you are still late for reasons beyond your control, allow the security guards to do their job. Also say “good morning”…
  3. Poor Planning – The security guards should not be the catch all cover for poor planning. Take the time to consider the impact on their schedules, breaks and welfare before you jump to the default thinking of grabbing some on-duty security guards to cover the gap – they are on-duty for a reason and have a specific function, roles and responsibilities.
  4. Give Positive Feedback – When the security guards are doing a good job, let them know and if appropriate let their line management know. Feedback is important for all of us and is not just for when things are not good.

There is Hope

Some security guarding companies offer a structured career pathway, appropriate to role training and a remuneration package that motivates and recognizes the role. However, these remain the minority and the exception, rather than the norm. These are the big players in this sector but the majority of security guards remain employed by the much smaller operators.

If we all make an effort to acknowledge the role of the security guard force, check our assumptions that they can do everything (without training), include them in our thinking, stop using them to fill poor planning gaps and make a personal effort to just say good morning, afternoon or evening, this will make a difference.