security risk assessments

These days, there’s a lot of emphasis on businesses protecting themselves from online risks and cybercrime. But as recently illustrated by the incident outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital, physical threats remain ever present too. Every business and organisation must make sure they are aware of the potential dangers they could face and take action to reduce the risks by putting appropriate security measures in place.

Obviously there’s variation in terms of the likely potential risks. To understand the particular challenges faced, companies should conduct security risk assessments which then form the basis of their physical site security plans. This information enables organisations to take steps to address the major threats and ensures that resources are being targeted in the most effective ways possible. So where should you start?

Identifying the main threats

The first step is to work out what are the main types of risks faced by your business. It’s likely they will be fairly diverse and while some might be comparatively minor (low-value theft from employees for example, or small-scale acts of vandalism) they could also be far more serious. Threats could include theft of high-value items, sabotage and violent acts that could potentially include terrorism.

If your property is small and doesn’t have many employees it should be comparatively more straightforward to work your way systematically through the risk assessment process. In a larger site, it can be helpful to start at the site’s perimeter and work inwards as you identify all of the potential risks.

Having said that, you will need to take some external factors into account. For instance, what are crime levels like in the area overall? Neighbouring businesses might have experienced problems so be mindful of any incidents that have occurred. Consider too what would happen if there was a security issue and you needed the support of the emergency services. How quickly would they be able to reach you if they were needed urgently?

  • Who can access your premises?

How easy could it be for unauthorised personnel to gain access to places where they shouldn’t be? You might have employees, contractors, visitors, residents and/or members of the public able to access your premises so you must consider what kind of threat could be presented by an individual or group within any of those categories of people.  Are you able to manage all of your entrances and exits securely, or is it quite straightforward for people to come in and out of your building unnoticed? Think too whether security risks could become heightened at certain points of the day; for instance, at shift changeover or as office workers leave and cleaning staff come on site. Even if a building needs to be easily accessible, can it be locked down (or sections of it locked down) in an emergency?

You might also have lone workers on site. They can be particularly at risk so it’s important to make sure appropriate measures, such as access control and panic alarms, are in place.

  • What could draw the attention of criminals?

Is there anything in particular that could make your premises a target? For instance, do you have a large number of vulnerable residents or patients located in a building that’s relatively easy to access? Could the nature of your business or organisation increase the chances of you being targeted? Perhaps there are high value items stored on your premises, or you use equipment that could be particularly attractive to thieves. Or your location might mean you’re especially vulnerable to opportunistic burglaries.

In many respects, you need to ‘think like a criminal’ to work out where the opportunities for them and risks to you are most likely to manifest themselves.

  • Ask for a range of views

Don’t forget to speak to other building users to get their views where appropriate as it could broaden your perspective and alert you to issues that you might not have otherwise considered. For example, some employees might feel vulnerable if they leave the building when it’s dark and have to work through a quiet unlit area to get to their car. Others might feel isolated in the area where they are based, or have seen anti-social behaviour in the vicinity that you need to be aware of.

Where are the vulnerabilities relative to current security arrangements?

Once you’ve identified the nature of the potential threats, you need to consider the level of risk faced for each threat. How significant are they and what is the likelihood of them materialising?  This will help guide you in deciding where your priorities lie in order to reduce those risks.

Part of that will involve reviewing what you already have in place to mitigate security threats, paying particular attention to the ones you’ve identified as significant. What gaps might there be in your existing security arrangements and systems? Has equipment been well-maintained, or could it have deteriorated and no longer offer the necessary level of protection? Are windows and doors in a good state of repair and easily lockable? Can valuables be readily locked away, or at least kept out of sight? What about surveillance? Even if you have CCTV installed, make sure that it’s still suitable for the threats identified; review where cameras are situated, and ensure they still cover the most vulnerable access points to your site.

Identify and implement the actions that must be taken

The final stage of the security risk assessment is to identify all of the site-specific actions that must be put in place and then make sure they happen promptly. This includes physical modifications and installation of equipment and systems, and could also incorporate actions like employee training to ensure staff are as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency situation unfolding.

As with any risk assessment, remember that it must be reviewed regularly, both to make sure that progress is being made with the identified actions, and also to ensure no further changes or updates are needed as time goes on.

If you’d like to learn more about how our security systems can help you meet your workplace’s physical security requirements, please do contact us.