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Simple Measures to Control Risk to Security Workers

Working in the security industry has risks. That’s nothing new. Not only dealing with violence on the job, but also other threats that may arise unrelated to it. On today’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work, we want to offer a discussion about what we can all do to minimize those risks.

The data is clear: Security work is particularly dangerous. In some countries, for example, almost two private security officers are killed on duty for every police officer fatality. According to the International Labour Organization, security officers suffer injuries at an average of more than twice the rate of the average worker.

There are plenty of situations where security personnel could be facing risk of violence. Such as working alone (overnight) / or isolation and other hazards present in the sector. And, of course, different environments will present different risks. Just think of the varied threats in some common areas of work, such as parking lots, buildings, inspection, events and so on.

If you look at the data globally, what it indicates is that violence is the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities but slips and falls account for the greatest share of injuries to private security officers. This amounts to around 30% to 40% of those incidents. In the UK, for instance, according to the Office of National Statistics, the average life expectancy of a security guard is 62, while the average in the country is 79.2 years for men and 82.9 years for women. Of the 1,687 security guard deaths that were examined in the study, half were caused by heart disease and a quarter were from lung disease.

We all know that Training and experience always go side by side to improve the safety of everybody around. But, as you see, there is much more to it. We want to quickly address what employers, but also what employees can do about it.

On the employer side, precautionary measures need to be in place in order to control the hazard. Any serious employer should have a violence prevention plan, guidelines for those working in isolation (only when that is really not avoidable), effective communications systems and making no compromise regarding the use of personal protection equipment by the team.

When writing a violence prevention policy, this must clearly describe your guidelines and the measures taken to minimize or eliminate risk of violence towards personnel. Starting with a comprehensive description of any worksite where violence has occurred or is likely to occur, as well as the specific job functions that may expose the officers to an incident of violence. That data is easily accessible with statistics and with previous experience.

Once you have identified specific situations to develop the awareness of your employees, you need to write down and communicate the procedures in that case. This includes measures to summon immediate assistance in the event of threatening situations, procedures to report it, documenting and investigating it in a continuous process to learn from it, and minimizing their risk in the future. Effective communication systems (Lone Worker Solutions) in place might make the difference between life and death. The timing is often decisive. Thus, make sure you use your communications instruments and keep in touch with your workers on duty at regular intervals.

In short, we cannot completely eliminate the risk in our jobs, but we can learn how to minimize it before it occurs, mitigate the extension of damage when it does occur, and keep learning to go back to the first point.

However, there is also plenty more we can do ourselves as security professionals. When you consider slips and falls at 30-40% and almost 50% of fatalities being life-style diseases, you can’t just blame it on the profession or on the employer.

At IAPPA, we always emphasize the importance of regular training and an adequate lifestyle on the job in our courses. If you train regularly, stay mobile and practice how to safely fall, you will already decimate the risk in most of the indirect causes of injury and death at work. As simple as that. Add a healthy diet and not smoking to it and you will be good.

But how about the risks that are directly related to the job? Of course, in the event of an attack, you need to know how to defend yourself. Only regular training can help in that case. Everything prior to that is about awareness and preparedness. And that is where most of violence incidents are prevented.

In our online course “Self-Protection for Security and Law Enforcement” for instance, it is not about drills and self-defence. It’s about the right mindset, good planning and preparedness. You can’t learn self-defence online, but you can certainly learn the psychology behind it, and get a roadmap to protect yourself not only from external attacks, but also from bad habits that might cost your life. How many security professionals practice how to de-escalate a situation as much as shooting or martial arts?

Equally, when we offer an online course on “Medical Awareness for Security and Law Enforcement”, you shouldn’t expect to learn how to perform a heart surgery or rappel from a helicopter under fire while stitching together a lost finger. You should know that cardiovascular emergencies are much more likely to kill you, your colleagues or your clients. Bad habits, missing training and lack of awareness kill. That’s why the best safety measures are simple, methodical and start in your mind.

Stay safe!

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