By Leon Harris
Published in INsite, December 2004-January 2005
Aged care operators are increasingly becoming aware that ignoring or delaying credible security risk assessments sometimes results in costly and unfortunate experiences. The range of experiences arising from a criminal incident may include injury to staff, residents and visitors; financial losses (e.g. civil [legal] remedy for personal injury, fines from [WorkCover] prosecutions, insurance premiums); management time loss and distraction (including time needed for legal defence); staff morale, prestige; and diminished management credibility.
We still hear statements like “we have all bases covered, or, “we have no concerns”, or “we have security patrols”, albeit less than what we heard say five years ago. We still hear statements after a serious criminal incident like “we thought that we had all the bases covered”, “we thought that we had no concerns” and “this should not have happened; we had security patrols”. However, on a brighter note, we are increasingly hearing statements like, “we need to know more about our security risks and our strategic options to manage them”.
This proactive focus is both a sign of good risk management and a reflection of good corporate governance. It is a realisation that occupational health and safety, security risk management (including staff safety measures and insurance) and corporate governance are interwoven and more obviously a part of core business for the modern business, including not-for-profit organisations. All three aspects have social and legal responsibility and obligations in terms of duty of care compliance. Facility owners and managers should discuss these issues with their professional legal advisers. Better sooner than later.
This proactive focus by an increasing number of owners and managers is an acknowledgement that the cost of appropriate protection from crime needs to be resourced. Good security standards are central to core business. Like any business requirement, there is a need to seek opportunities in genuine cost-savings, however, without compromising the integrity of security. This can be done with modern approaches in risk identification, effective staff training and new technologies. Opportunities to reduce the operating cost of security are available, in particular with the right selection and appropriate application of technologies. Opportunities for both single and multi-site operations are, unfortunately, missed by some operators because of a number of reasons; a common one being relying on poor advice. This is regrettable, unnecessary and in some legal cases, may be deemed negligent. Managerial action to identify the most cost-effective security risk management is absolutely the right approach.
One of the problems for those owners and managers of facilities who have yet to realise the need to realign and appropriately resource their security risk management is that court cases are exposing their (alleged) lack of duty of care compliance by comparison with similar organisations which are considered to have a ‘best practice’ in security risk management approach. Courts often consider the security (and safety) best practice standards of an industry at the time of the incident before them in assisting the directions of judgments and associated penalties (criminal matters) and damages (civil matters). The absence of criminal incidents prior to a criminal attack of a facility involved in litigation is losing credibility as a defence, because Courts are looking at the broader crime trends of an industry group.
All owners and managers need to be current in their understanding of what security best practice means in the aged care industry and (at least) work towards it.
Leon Harris CPP, is the principal consultant for Harris Crime Prevention Services.
Harris Crime Prevention Services provides on an occasional basis articles by other Industry experts, such as: How Airports apply designing out crime principles