John Briggs – Vetting the Security Guard

John Briggs, Operations Director of First Security
John Briggs, Operations Director of First Security

In his fourth blog for, John Briggs, operations director for First Security, powered by Interserve, says that the time is now right for industry to re-evaluate its vetting procedures.

Millions of pounds are lost annually from businesses as a result of employee theft.  Although the scale and severity of this theft may only be minor, national estimates claim that 75% of all workers steal from their employers at least once throughout their careers.

With such high figures in mind, how do you ensure that the individuals that are meant to be protecting your assets are not misusing the additional trust and freedom bestowed to the role of the security officer?

Here, John Briggs, operations director for First Security evaluates the current BS7858 vetting procedures for security guards.  He suggests that with changes to the Security Industry Authority (SIA) on the horizon, now is the perfect time for industry to consider current procedures and how they can be improved.

Setting the standard

The British Standard BS7858 has, for many years, acted as a good code of practice for vetting the suitability of employees and has proved its value in ensuring that our industry is made up of well-trained, motivated individuals.

However, whilst all members of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) agree to conform to BS7858, it remains a voluntary scheme and, as such, contains only recommendations for best practice rather than any specific activities required by law.

One particular issue with the standard is there is no centrally held database of information concerning individuals working in the industry.  This results in companies requiring the same checks to be made each time an employee seeks employment or is TUPE-transferred to an organisation, regardless of how many times he or she has been vetted in the past.

These include areas such as running credit checks on potential workers, requesting personal references or investigating employment gaps greater than 28 days.

In addition, the standard recommends that employers should ask for unspent convictions to be listed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, the SIA however includes this as part of their comprehensive licensing scheme.

With the onus firmly on employees to ensure they are properly licensed, this makes it all the more important for the industry to have a robust system in place that can check thoroughly the attributes of potential workers, if it is to remain compliant with the law.  It’s certainly an issue we take very seriously at First Security, as we recognise the trust our clients place with us to ensure guards possess the right skills and have passed all the necessary criminal checks.

Another issue with the standard is that there is a 12-week gap in which to undertake the full screening.  This means that an individual may be able to start work following nothing more than telephone references and continue to work for up to 12 weeks whilst screening is carried out; even if the employer is aware from an early stage that the individual may not be viable for employment.

Moving to the SIA model

Whilst the standard clearly has a number of benefits as part of an employment-vetting process, in its current guise, it offers little more than proof of an individual’s previous career with another security firm.

We all are all aware of the SIA’s public register of licence holders.  Perhaps it is time for our industry to consider a similar, rigorous model and adopt a central database system, containing all of the details of vetted and licensed individuals alongside relevant employment history, qualifications, credit history and so on.

Importantly, such a system would not remove the industry’s right to use its own proven methods of assessing suitability.  We, after all, have the expertise in providing trusted security solutions and understand what attributes employees require to operate professionally and safely.

It would, however, enable eligible individuals already approved by one BSIA member to move to other employment without having to start the screening process from the very beginning each time, saving time and cost for all.

In conclusion

It is vital for our customers, for the public and for the goodwill and reputation of our industry that individuals are checked thoroughly, to ensure that appropriately skilled and qualified professionals are employed.

Looking forward to 2013, I call upon our industry to re-analyse our current system for vetting security guards. With the proposed changes to the SIA, we have the perfect opportunity to do just this. Now is the time to work together to make the process meaningful, robust and worthwhile.

First Security Website

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