The early stages of the reopening of the British economy are underway following the Government’s announcement in mid-May that some people could return to work if they were unable to work from home. Workers in manufacturing and construction are among the first to return to the workplace, with other industries on standby. Should the data from the easing of the lockdown allow it, other businesses are gearing up to reopen at the start of July.

Security has a pivotal role to play in mitigating the risk of infection and contamination as people return to the workplace. However, before exploring that, I want to highlight the fantastic work that the industry has been doing throughout this crisis.

Security officers

Security officers across the country have demonstrated the importance of their work time and again in recent weeks. Even when offices and shops have been closed, security personnel have been going about their usual duties in protecting assets and securing premises.

At Amulet, part of our business continuity planning had been to prepare for possible staff shortages, but the commitment of our teams to carry on with their roles has been amazing. But as workplaces start to become occupied again, officers will face new challenges which we all need to be ready for.

Officers will face new challenges which we all need to be ready for

Security officers are often the people that process the entrance and exits to buildings. This will now need to be done with social distancing in mind. Each workplace and building might have a slightly different set up in terms of how they will address social distancing, including tape on the ground to measure 2m distances, rope to help enforce one-way systems, and the opening of additional entrances and exits to a building.

Checking temperatures

Officers may also be responsible for checking the temperature of occupants as they enter using hand-held scanners, and for signing people in and out of a building to reduce the need for each person to come into contact with a logbook or touch-screen visitor management system.

While it’s hoped that the vast majority of people will understand and respect the need for new systems, this is a stressful time for everyone and tempers can get frayed. Officers must be trained on how to manage confrontation.

For example, a company may state that anyone with a temperature over 38.5 degrees cannot enter the building. An occupant might measure a fraction over and ask that they be allowed to enter. Security officers will need to be strict in reinforcing the rules and how to remove someone from a building if they do not comply. This could be a delicate situation, so a strong relationship between security staff and the client is essential.

Security as brand ambassadors

This goes alongside the continued role of security officers as brand ambassadors. This is arguably even more important now as officers still need to be just as welcoming and helpful when working within the new restrictions.

Just as important as officers looking after building occupants is that employers look after their officers. Even with social distancing, they are going to come into closer contact with more people than most professions, and will also be using high-risk touchpoints more frequently, such as door handles and reception areas.

We fully expect face masks to become a requirement for buildings

We fully expect face masks to become a requirement for buildings, whether from Government advice or the decision of individual businesses. As such, we have supplied full plastic visors to all of our security personnel as well as other PPE. We’re also regularly communicating with teams to remind them on best practice for the safe use and maintenance of PPE.

PPE and security

Even before this crisis started, any PPE that we issued was accompanied by full training and a sign off procedure. It’s a vital step in being able to track the usage of equipment and making sure that it’s being used appropriately.

It’s important to communicate with clients about PPE too – depending on the sector, clients may have different reactions to the need for PPE.

The rail clients we work with are by nature more risk-averse and so are fully on board with security officers wearing PPE. They are doing everything they can to improve safety and hygiene in a high footfall environment.

With other clients it may take a little more education and encouragement, especially around understanding HSE guidance. It’s understandable that some clients may think a full plastic visor is overboard for a small office building; this is again where having a strong relationship will be so beneficial. Getting clients on board will make it easier for them to communicate to building occupants about the security protocols in place, and why they have been implemented.

The challenge of retail

Crowds will need to be very carefully managed and stores will have to work together to maintain social distancing

One sector that might be particularly challenging for security personnel is retail, especially shopping centers. Crowds will need to be very carefully managed and stores will have to work together to maintain social distancing outside of their doors. But the same basic principles will apply – wearing PPE, educating clients on HSE guidelines and agreeing on and enforcing social distancing measures.

High-end boutique shops bring their own challenges. While security officers will not have to deal with high footfall, they will need to balance the enforcement of security measures with the requirement of providing a welcoming experience to customers keen to spend after months of lockdown.

It’s likely that some potential customers will be wearing face masks, which would usually be a huge red flag for an officer at a luxury retail boutique. Now, they’ll have to judge the situation in a completely different way with the worry of losing a big sale if the customer doesn’t get the welcome they expect. As always, security personnel must work on this with the client to agree on what procedures to follow.

The role of security in mitigating the risk as businesses reopen cannot be understated. With so much to consider, conversations with clients must start now to ensure that everything is in place for when the time comes.

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Darren Read Managing Director, Amulet

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