Earlier this year, the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the lockdown of millions of British people and the temporary closure or downscaling of countless businesses. As staff have been furloughed and business owners have come to terms with new ways of operating, so people have become aware of emerging security concerns.
Most obviously, the physical security of many premises and construction sites has had to be given a new priority. With fewer staff in buildings – or with some offices and factories left altogether vacant – the risks of break-ins and vandalism has grown significantly. According to a March 2020 report by the security business magazine IFSEC Global, “police forces across the UK are having to carry out extra night patrols … as burglars target shops, pubs and other commercial premises during the coronavirus lockdown.”
In recent months, there has therefore been increased demand for an on-site presence at many business premises, together with greater investment in physical and digital security measures such as intruder detection, CCTV and perimeter systems.
However, now that certain lockdown measures are being relaxed, businesses are facing a new set of security issues.
For some companies, one of the most pressing challenges is to ensure adequate protection for lone workers and ‘skeleton staff’. In many cases, physical distancing rules and the wider adoption of home-working have meant that only a relatively small proportion of a company’s workforce have been able to return to their usual workstations. Having just one or two staff in a relatively large office or factory has become commonplace during the pandemic; a director, perhaps, and someone to manage the accounts. Much the same can be said of construction sites and educational premises.
Home-working is clearly a good solution in terms of managing infection risks, but it does expose any remaining on-site staff to another kind of threat. Lone workers are more vulnerable so it’s important that business owners consider what measures may be necessary to protect both staff and premises at a time when criminals may regard partially unoccupied sites as a soft target.
One possible solution is the deployment of dedicated on-site security professionals. The obvious advantage here is that security staff are well trained and provide a clear and visible deterrent. Unlike employees, they will not be distracted by everyday work tasks and phone calls; they can focus entirely on managing security risks, carrying out patrols and monitoring all relevant security systems.
Another useful security measure is to provide security awareness training for any staff who may be working on site, either alone or in small numbers. Appropriate training will help to keep employees safe and alert to potential threats. It may also enable them to reduce the chances of theft and intrusion. For example, far too many businesses leave valuable assets visible through the windows of premises and vehicles; items such as stock, tools, IT equipment, mobile phones and personal effects, any of which might attract the attention of an opportunistic thief. Some basic awareness training will enable staff to recognise such situations and to minimise the risks; for example, just by putting such items out of casual sight.
The partial lifting of lockdown restrictions might also prompt reappraisals of commercial operations and associated security. For those that are gradually returning to work, this is a rare opportunity to revaluate processes and the use of space – i.e. before activities resume at full scale and buildings fill up again with staff, stock and equipment. In such cases, processes can be re-engineered with security in mind, to further reduce risks and to improve the efficiency of operations. It could also be a good time to give staff refresher training about on-site security procedures, with regard to issues such as storage facilities, key-holding, visitor access and employee responsibilities.
Finally, it’s also important to consider cyber-security. The Covid-19 pandemic has been exploited by many cyber criminals, and phishing emails with subject lines such as “coronavirus” or “Covid-19” have become commonplace. Lone workers, home-workers and skeleton staff may all be more susceptible to cyber-attack at present, particularly if they are operating without the ready support of a dedicated IT department. Once again, staff training could provide a useful line of defence.
In addition to the above, businesses may well also want to use this time to bolster other security and safety measures such as CCTV and remote monitoring, intruder alarms, security lighting, fire safety systems and more. This period of relative quiet affords a chance to improve security measures with minimal disruption to usual working routines. When the Covid-19 pandemic is over and working routines return to normality, business owners may be glad to have taken advantage of this opportunity.
For advice about any aspect of security or related training, please call us on 0800 035 6607 or send us your questions via our enquiry form. We’ll be glad to offer you whatever help and advice we can.