In his latest blog for Infologue.com, John Briggs, operations director for First Security, looks at the British Standard BS7858 and what the security industry needs to do to streamline the employee screening procedure.
Screened or unscreened?
Screening new employees can be a costly and time-consuming process for security companies. Often the procedure is not carried out as extensively as it should be, resulting in employees not being vetted correctly. With some security company’s contracts changing every couple of years, it also means employees are being screened more often, at a significant cost to their new employer.
Security officers must inform their new employer of their career history to ensure checks are made to confirm they are suitable to work in the security industry. In the past, this meant providing details of the past 20 years of their career. This timeframe was then reduced to 10 years, with the current industry standard being further reduced to only the past five years of a security officer’s employment history.
The onus is on security companies to physically go through a person’s list of ex-employers and contact them directly to confirm the dates they worked for that employer and that there were no instances of misconduct. In certain circumstances if they cannot obtain this information managers can choose to sign the employee off as screened without the full screening process having been completed.
The screening process can get even more complicated when dealing with employees that are from overseas, as it’s sometimes nearly impossible to carry out the correct checks.
The right standard
BS7858 was brought in to verify any claims of previous employment made by a security officer, and if any gaps in employment were found, that these gaps could be explained; to prove they hadn’t served time in prison for example. However, at present it doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to do with regards to aiding rigorous screening. All security officers now have to possess a license from the Security Industry Authority (SIA), which includes a criminal record check that almost negates the need for this standard as a check on the suitability of a person to work in the security industry.
So much more could be done with BS7858 to improve the standard, and actually help the industry to thoroughly vet security officers prior to employment. If we’re going to have regulations in place they need to be right and do the job they are set out to do, otherwise they are pointless. But if we can change regulations to make them right for the industry we can improve the integrity of security services in the UK as a whole.
The screening processes of the SIA and BS7858 should work together to check all of the background information of a security officer. By identifying the gaps in the SIA’s vetting procedure, BS7858 could be improved to cover the whole scope of the employee’s background. And if a combination of SIA and BS7858 approval could firmly set apart the accredited security personnel from the charlatans, it would prove a valuable service to customers.
Of course, although the screening process within the industry contains some holes, there are many good checks in place that can allow employers to have a certain level of trust and faith in an officer. As consumer credit checks allow companies to see if a person is in debt or has any CCJs, there are checks that will uncover any restrictions that prevent an individual from working within the security industry in the UK. Agencies will screen potential employees on behalf of a company, but this can cost around £90 each time a check is made. Personal references are also an excellent way of checking a person’s credibility, and letters from respected members of the community – such as a doctor – can aid in building a good character reference.
However, if an organisation such as the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the trade association for the private security industry in the UK, had a database of all the individuals that had been security screened and a record of their employment history, it would provide a safe employee log that could be accessed easily. The people registered in that database would then be regularly screened for the rest of their career in the security industry, and employers would only need to refer to the BSIA database to check if they were legitimate.
If we implement a database to house records of all security workers in the UK, we will be able to keep the costs and time involved in screening new employees to a minimum.
Not only will security employers benefit from reduced costs, but the whole system of vetting people will work more efficiently. This means we will be more confident about the calibre of people we are employing, and offer an even better service to those outsourcing security solutions. The bottom line is, if the security industry wants to be taken seriously it has to start acting seriously about the individuals that are employed within the industry.
Opinions expressed by contributors and commentators do not necessarily reflect the views of Infologue.com or Interconnective Limited.