Douglas Greenwell – The desired states of security and safety: An artificial separation?

Douglas Greenwell, Sales and Strategy Director at G4S Secure Solutions (UK)
Douglas Greenwell, Sales and Strategy Director at G4S Secure Solutions (UK)

In an exclusive feature for, Douglas Greenwell, Sales and Strategy Director at G4S Secure Solutions (UK), discusses the distinction between security and safety. Douglas writes: “After some fourteen years in the UK security industry, one of the most persistent debates I have encountered has surrounded the relationship between the desired states of ‘security’ and ‘safety’. This debate has always struck me as somewhat of a red herring because, in my view and that of G4S Secure Solutions, there is no real distinction between security and safety. Distinctions, we believe, do not stand up to meaningful scrutiny.

“The debate becomes particularly focused when we examine it in the context of high risk sites in ‘hazardous’ industries, for example the petro-chemical industry, oil and gas refinery, toxic chemical and material manufacture/handling, new energy technologies and beyond. A core illustration of this artificial distinction would be on sites governed by the ‘Control of Major Accident Hazards’ (COMAH) regulations and other sites similarly regulated. Recently we have outlined our observations in the following white paper, available here. In our paper we examine the issues above and then ask: what does this mean for the security industry as a whole?

“We argue that it means we need a searching examination of the role of security officers in the twofold areas of security and safety. Typically in our industry, we understand ‘security’ to be freedom from danger and risk, in other words ‘safety’. Similarly, we understand safety as being the state of being ‘safe’ and also as freedom from danger and risk, plus consequential injury and loss. Simple, you might say. So far, so good.

“Yet why do these concepts, and their corresponding security functions, appear to be widely set apart from one another in the context of hazardous industry? We challenge this because considering that security and safety are the means to an end – and vice versa – namely that safety leads to security and security to safety, the leaders of high risk sites in hazardous industry should consider ripping down artificial distinctions between security officers and safety officers. At the moment, we observe them to be very much intact.

“My observations on this are primarily based on the scope for serious and even fatal business damage arising from major security and safety incidents at COMAH and high risk sites. For example, the 2005 Buncefield disaster in Hertfordshire, the 1976 Seveso incident in Italy and the more recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. All of these kinds of incidents can lead to catastrophic human and economic cost – literally, the difference between life and death.

“The traditional models for security and safety are typically not fused together into a complete, comprehensive package. We argue that this is counter-intuitive; why be so separate if the desired outcomes are the same? Why not combine and enhance the understanding and delivery of security and safety into a more complete package, and in doing so create a single vessel for delivery into a single Safety and Security Officer?

“Risks to sites in hazardous industry are dynamic and complex. To be effective, security solutions should be similarly configured. For example, new models of machinery and equipment are adopted to deal with the pace of change. We argue that security and safety personnel should be seen in a similar fashion – as dynamic, evolving and a dual means to the binary ends of security and safety.”

G4S Secure Solutions (UK) Website

Douglas Greenwell has fourteen years of experience in the security industry having joined Securicor in 2000 as Head of Product Development, prior to its merger with Group to create G4S. Now, as Sales and Strategy Director at G4S Secure Solutions (UK), he has responsibility for strategy within the business through market research, new product development and acquisitions. A keen technologist, he has been instrumental in developing the company’s technology strategy, including the integration of the systems business and the development and launch of a mobile product to enhance security guards.

Originally a physics graduate, Douglas started his career at Reuters in 1991 as a Graduate Marketing Trainee. Douglas has also worked at IBM, Dow Jones and American Express in a variety of marketing and product management roles. Outside of work, Douglas is a keen Formula One fan and an ardent supporter of McLaren as well as an enthusiastic player of Texas Hold ‘em poker.