Are business leaders failing in their duty of care for Security Professionals? By David Hughes

In my experience, the security community have long felt that the security sector has been marginalised across many areas when it comes to broader business support. Often seen as a standalone discipline, businesses have been slow to fully integrate not only the philosophies of good corporate responsibility exalted by security professionals, but often fail in the inclusion of its security staff in all aspects of their duty of care responsibilities. I will address the wider topic of corporate responsibility and risk management later, but for now wish to highlight the concern regarding health, safety, welfare and the provision of adequate support for the 320,000+ SIA licenced staff in the UK.

As part of my degree thesis I studied the effects of poor leadership in the workplace. Data showed a clear correlation between ineffective leadership & increases in workplace illness & staff absenteeism due to stress. Executive bodies & institutes such as the HSE & the IoD are working to address this, but more needs to be done. We are seeing a rise in ‘wellbeing’ programs as companies try to address this issue, but in my humble opinion this is a cause & effect’ problem. While businesses scrutinise return on investment data (ROI) while trying to establish ‘positive’ benefit cost ratios (BCR) many are ignorant to the fact that leadership disengagement is a major driver in these figures.

Similarly, in a journal editorial from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) they showed – “One in five-line managers ‘ineffective’, according to employees. The article stated: “A third of the UK workforce is likely to leave their current employer in the next two years because of the poor relationship they have with their line manager.”

The article clarified the point:

“Although staff recognise the challenges managers face in doing their job – 37% said their manager didn’t have enough time to handle the people aspects of management – managerial failings are having a negative impact on the wellbeing of UK workers.

Not all companies ‘live’ by the values and standards they proport. Studies show the top performing companies are those that do live by their ‘values’ and the best companies have higher staff satisfaction rates. This is seldom achieved where leaders are not involved at all levels of the company and actively listening to and supporting their staff. I will conclude this point at the end of this article but for now let’s look at some of the issues in detail.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) produced a report (2017) relating to workplace illness, with special regards to work-related stress, depression & anxiety. The report showed the following:

That it is estimated ½ million workers are suffering from work related stress, anxiety and depression. The estimated cost of total absences from the workplace due to ill-health costs the economy £5.2 Billion annually.

Table 1 Source: Office for National Statistics -2017

Amongst the main factors cited for these ‘staff illnesses’ are workplace pressures such as the need to achieve targets & objectives, or too much responsibility being placed on individuals. The lack of management support is also seen as a major contributor to these illnesses.

In a related article published by the British Institute of Facilities Management, cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw says, “that the current generation of workers face more stress than any in the past”.

She reported – “Research has shown that positive support in the workplace stimulates brain chemicals, associated with social bonding and trust, meaning that belonging to a good work community can not only alleviate stress, but also help depression and anxiety disorders”.

A lack of support, recognition and feedback from supervisors was cited among the top causes of stress for UK employees in the study. Perhaps the most fundamental part of being a leader is to listen. Often, poor leaders understand the term ‘Human Capital’ incorrectly. In reality it relates to, among other things the collective knowledge, personality attributes & creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labour so as to produce economic value. Management systems that treat people as “factors of production” are inherently demotivating. I have seen all too often those disenfranchised security officers, hardworking, dedicated and ignored.

If you have ever used the CPNI guard-force ‘Motivation Analysis Tool’ the astute amongst you could not have failed to notice the ‘industry benchmark values’ for ‘Management Influences on Motivation’ are either assessed as ‘weak’ or ‘may need improvement’. This evidence alone should focus our minds to addressing the problem of workplace disenfranchisement for security officers’.

Closer support for staff is only one area that requires greater attention. Within the security sector, staff are exposed to many risks which threaten their health, safety & life. While we tend to think about the risk of ‘violence’ that many confront, some equally important issues are seldom considered.

How many security staff have ever conducted an occupational health survey for night shift working? (Long-term night shift work is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, as well as metabolic problems, heart disease, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems and obesity). For those readers familiar with BS 7499, you’ll recall this is covered albeit briefly, in sub para 5.3.2. However, how many security managers let alone non-security managers are aware of this? To clarify, (because I have been asked the question) this is not about night working regulations. Rather, it is about providing appropriate health cover for those at risk of known hazards. It’s the ‘moral’ component of health & safety legislation.

Operating within the spirit of the Law does not necessarily mean you are complying with it. An example; manual handling (MH): How many of the readers have been sent on a manual handling course. You learn the risks & hazards involved and are taught correct lifting techniques to adopt. If you are attending a better standard of course you may even get to practice what you have learnt. For some companies they consider that is all that is required. Their staff go on to conduct MH duties, and over time develop back and upper limb disorders. Greater time is spent away from work due to injury or while at work productivity is reduced. My first point is that ‘awareness of hazards does not reduce the effect of them!’. Studies have shown what must be obvious, that even if you adopt the correct posture but continue to conduct MH activities, over time your body will suffer. My second point is that if you read the regulations the first thing is states is to ‘avoid’ the need to conduct the activity’, if that cannot be achieved then ‘reduce’ the risk. So instead of only sending staff on courses, automate your systems or reduce loads to easily managed sizes and introduce mechanical aids. Now look at the ONS chart again, the top 3 reasons for days lost relate to back & upper limb injuries.

While companies tend to consider obvious workplace hazards when producing risk assessments, often the workplace practices of security officers are not considered or understood. I challenge the reader to review this within their own workplace. Do your security teams have risk assessments for patrolling, road traffic duties*, DSE, confrontation with intruders etc. If you do, are they ‘in date’? How often are they reviewed, updated, but more importantly, read and signed by the staff they are designed to protect. Do those staff know how to report issues or highlight concerns which have been overlooked? How many of your night security team have completed a company occupational health survey, & if they have, has their condition been reviewed lately?

*Only recently a security officer in Grimsby lost his life conducting access control duties. 3 companies including his own security firm were fined for failing to introduce appropriate safety measures and awareness training. I am not going to comment on the details of that incident because I don’t know the full extent of the event, I am sure the 3 firms are devastated by the occurrence, but it brings me back to my study into leadership disconnect with workplace activities.

Findings of an HSE/IoD report from 2008 found that director involvement in workplace activities & understanding of issues of legislation was poor. The introduction of the ‘Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act’ 2007 (CMCHA) had little apparent effect on directors at the time, with only 54% indicating they were aware of changes to legislation, and 65% of those not being able to name the Act.

When directors were questioned about their views as to what would increase their attention on health and safety the study found:

65% said more guidance

51% greater penalties for directors

48% new legislation

This issue falls out of the bigger problem of collective responsibility. As I alluded to earlier, the function of the security officer and their managers is often considered separate to that of the ‘core business of a company. Often, as is the experience expressed by many in the security industry, non-security managers & leaders omit (perhaps not intentionally) the duty of care responsibilities they fulfil for other staff. So, what can be done?

The SIA and bodies such as the Security Institute are diligently trying to improve the working condition and standards of those within the industry. But as the data shows, leaders are failing staff generally, so we within the security industry must do more to support those who remain in the peripheral vision of those responsible for their care. There is certainly a need for closer support & guidance regarding safety arrangements for security staff.

As a health, safety and security practitioner I have witnessed all too often this corporate failing. It was in part the reason I undertook further research into this issue in order to fully comprehend the scale of the problem. Sadly, as the data shows, I do not believe we have the time to wait for businesses to change this from within, nor can they do it alone. Leaders and managers need to be better informed. This will require greater engagement from security professionals & institutes with the provision of more readily accessible security awareness information & guidance. I except also that there will always be more to do (by security & non-security staff alike) but we should not, therefore, lose everything on the altar of perfection & abandon our efforts because of the challenge faced. I sincerely believe with collective effort and singular vision we can improve the safety & welfare standards of those in the security industry. I, along with my partners are making this & workplace risk management a priority for our business & look forward to working in co-operation with others who share this aim.

David Hughes BA(Hons), GCGI, MCMI, MSyI, Tech IOSH

David is a director and co-founder of Eagna |agna| Training Services Ltd. He is a security and health & safety professional with 22 years military service. Since then he has held several senior security appointments and more recently completed a 4-year contract as the national security / fire, health & safety advisor on a central government & defence (CG&D) contract. David is a graduate of Northumbria University & holds a first-class honours degree in ‘Leadership & Management’ with the Faculty of Business & Law. He is now dedicated to the improvement of training & development standards for employees, with a particular focus on safety & welfare for those working in the security sector.