By Leon Harris CPP
Published in INsite, February/March 2003
As security risk management consultants, we are always concerned when aged care operators spend money on stop-gap actions after a security incident. In some cases these stop-gap actions maybe necessary until a more sustainable solution is implemented. One of these stop-gap (reactive) actions is the engagement of a security guard (sometimes with a dog) to patrol the site. Besides the financial issue of having such an arrangement (between $130,000 to $140,000 per annum – based on an evening shift only), there are other issues such as vicarious liability (e.g. the possibility of a security guard [or dog] causing personal injury), public image and effectiveness in terms of crime prevention and personal safety perceptions. Management may also face difficulty in allaying safety fears of staff when attempting to withdraw the security services.
We are not in any way advising operators not to consider this course of action. What we are advocating, is that this action must be placed in a security risk management framework.
A risk assessment is needed not only for the hiring of a security guard, but also for the later removal of the guard, which eventually happens due to costs and questionable effectiveness. A problem arises in legal proceedings when the decision to remove the security guard is based on financial, rather than risk management, reasons. Costs do come into the risk management approach, however, when cost is the main, or only, reason for the removal of the security guard, the courts may take a dim view when the matter before the court centres around an act of violence which occurred after the security guard services had been removed.
Some aged care operators may also be under the misconception that when they contract a security (on-site) guard or security patrols, they have met their duty of care obligations. The use of any risk treatment method, in this case a guard (and dog), must be placed within a risk management framework. This framework, as recommended in the AS/NZS 4360:1999 Risk Management, recommends that risks and risk treatment options should be comprehensively identified. Without an appropriate security risk management approach, management decisions may be seen to be flawed, costs are often unnecessarily high and there is little added value. Duty of care compliance may be difficult to exhibit in a legal action relating to personal injury and property claims (damage or theft), if security risk is not placed within a security risk management framework.
In previous articles I have discussed the benefit of undertaking an holistic Security Review (risk assessment) of facilities referring to AS/NZS 4360:1999 Risk Management and AS 4485 1 & 2: 1997 Security for Health Care Facilities. When considering contracting a security patrol/guarding service, facility operators should also make themselves conversant with AS 4421:1996 Security Guards and Patrols and any guidelines or codes issued by government authorities relating to the use and care of security dogs (such as in NSW, issued by the Department of Agriculture).
As with any risk management process, it is always advisable to be pro-active and have a Security Review undertaken as part of normal business process. However, should an incident occur, it is critical that a supplementary Security Review is undertaken to examine the nature of the incident and to modify the facility’s security risk management approach.
In the event of civil or industrial litigation where there is sufficient evidence to support a plaintiff’s claim that the measures in place at the time of the incident were not considered to be reasonable in preventing the act of violence, or may have even contributed to it, hefty penalties and compensation have been experienced.
To improve security risk management (including legal defence) and to gain greater value from your security budget, security advice should be gained from a specialist consultant not aligned to providers of security guard services or security systems installers.
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