Working Alone Perils Faced by Security Officers (Guards) on Construction Sites


Who’s Protecting the Protectors?

This article is in response to The Safetyline eBook– “Hazard Assessment Guide – Identify Potential Hazards & Risk Levels Associated to Any Job Role In Your Organization,” which focuses on Security Officers across North America who work alone every day. During their night shift their workplace hazards and associated risks increase dramatically. Security officers become prime targets for thieves and vandals because of the valuable equipment and materials that can be found on site after hours. The Canadian construction industry estimates the loss due to theft, vandalism…on construction sites is in excess of $50 Million a year – in the USA the same losses exceed $1.4 Billion.

What is working alone? Working alone or in isolation means to work where assistance would not be readily available to workers in case of emergency, injury or illness. Security “lone” workers have little or no contact with their co-workers or supervisors over the course of their shift. In most cases construction security is on the construction site from 1600 to 0800 daily and on weekends the shifts often run 24/7.


WORKING ALONE PERFILES FACED BY SECURITY OFFICERS

Imagine, you are a security officers assigned to work alone at a construction site. Your working a 8 shift at night. It is winter, cold, heavy rain or snow and you’re working out of your personal vehicle. You have no access to first aid, a washroom maybe you have access to a Porta-Potti on the site or some form of bush or shrubbery is available to you.

Your employer requires you to check-in to some control point (if your company has one) once an hour, more often than not, you are using your own phone. No one conducts a physical check on you and if you don’t check in by phone, at an appointed time, someone might call you 20-30 minutes later – if you’re called at all.

For a majority of security officers who earn minimum wage, the job often comes with risks and hazards similar to those faced by construction workers; however there are a few more hazardous considerations to be taken into account for security employers and clients, such as:

  • Working alone
  • Workplace violence
  • Contact with objects and equipment
  • Stepping in holes or having to cross risky temporary walk-ways
  • Other hazards specific to a given construction site
  • Weather exposure
  • Inadequate illumination
  • Falls into exposed excavations
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Struck by falling objects
  • Overexertion
  • Transportation incidents
  • Exposure to harmful substances
  • Other hazards specific to a given construction site

Construction companies contract a security provider to place security officers on their property to stand watch and to protect their sites. As a Security Officer, your responsibilities are to observe and report and include:

  • Making half-hour patrols through the construction site,
  • Maintaining a visible presence,
  • Deter trespassers, vandals and theives,
  • Watch for and report fire,
  • Watch for a report any changes to environmental conditions that could effect the site,
  • Create and maintain a contemporanious shift log and write reports
  • Other responsibilities specific to a particular construction site.

In Canada, over the years, there are a litany of examples of security workers killed or injured providing security on construction sites. Here are a some examples:


Port Coquitlam, British Columbia– A security guard was brutally beaten and left for dead by three Caucasian men in an unprovoked attack at a Port Coquitlam construction site early Sunday morning. Read more here >>


Calgary, Alberta – A security company was fined $92,750 Friday after a female guard was raped by an intruder at an unsecured construction site. The woman, now 39, had earned her guard license just three weeks before the incident on Nov. 1, 2006, Read more here >>


Kelowna, British Columbia – A security guard was found dead at a condo construction site near Kelowna in the B.C. Interior on the weekend, but the RCMP say they’re almost certain no foul play was involved (medical issue.) Read more here >>


All employers are faced with the inescapable fact that they are responsible for the safety and health of their workers. Security employers are not exempt from these responsibililities and yet employers, and for that matter clients, fail to meet their health and safety duty of care compliance responsibilities.

One might think that recognizing and complying with the health and safety of security officers working on construction would be a given. Unfortunately, in the contract security patrol sector, safety complicance is considered a “grudge expense” because a “return on investment” is not recognized. Let’s also keep in mind the, so-called “low-ball” approach taken by construction clients and the security provider which also jeopardizes the safety of security workers.

The irony is that private security provides a legal service to its clients by acting on behalf of the client in the protection of the client’s people, property and assessments. The Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation place a legal obligation on employers and clients to abide by their legal obligations to create safe working conditions for all construction workers this should include security officers.


MAKING A SAFE INVESTMENT

Software services like SafetyLine give you flexibility without the uncertain pricing of call centers. A software solution also means you can save money by using current mobiles devices while protecting security officers who work alone and face hazards similar to those faced by construction workers.

The next articles we will delve deeper into the Duty of Care and Due Diligence responsibilities placed on contract security employers and their clients and suggest some risk mitigations that stakeholders can employ, including:

  • Field Level Hazard and risk assessment training (FLHRA)
  • Job Hazard Analysis and training development
  • Appropriate personal protection equipment
  • New worker training
  • The effects of shift work on older workers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jim Foston is Founder and CEO of The Foston Group – Safety & Protection Solutions©. The Foston Group is dedicated to developing and promoting innovative solutions to improve the health and safety of workers in the private security industry. Jim is passionate about “protecting the protectors” – ensuring the health and safety of all workers in the security industry. Jim provides training and consultation to security companies, private and government sector clients, and educational institutions. He has sat on several security training review committees including the Canadian General Standard Boards review of Security Officer and Security Supervisor training standards CAN/CGSB-133.1-2008, the Justice Institute of BC, Basic Security Training Curriculum review 2008 and Douglas College – Essential Skills for Security Personnel Advisory Committee, 2006.

Jim, currently, delivers enhanced security training at Vancouver Island University and has also created and delivered security training programs for Douglas College, Kwantlen College, BCIT, and the Open Learning Agency.

In 2010, he coordinated training of 1200 private security officers for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Integrated Security Unit and the Toronto 2010 G8/G20 Economic Summit. Jim lives in Nanaimo, BC Canada. www.thefostongroup.com

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