Office Security

Security around the workplace is everybody’s business. It is not solely the responsibility of management, security personnel or the police. Everyone has a part to play. All too often we get wrapped up in our day to day business and security ends up being buried somewhere in the back of our minds. It usually takes some sort of criminal act “close to home” to bring it all back. The key is awareness, coupled with action on your part. That is to say, we should all be made aware of security concerns and then take appropriate action to reduce them. All the literature, lectures and safety tips in the world will not help if you, the employee, do not put them into practice. Most security tips are common sense. Some may be a little inconvenient but can be worked around and implemented into our daily routines. We are all creatures of habit .

Generally, security in your office can be tightened up in two ways:

  • Physical changes
  • Procedural changes

Most concerns can be satisfactorily addressed by a combination of these two

  1. The physical layout of your office can either contribute to or hinder the chances of a criminal act taking place. Similarly, your office procedures and your own individual practices can have the same effect. The overall layout of your office should be examined. You should then also scrutinize your own individual work space with security and safety in mind. General office procedures such as cash handling, key control, access control, opening and closing procedures, should all be re-evaluated as well. Your own day to day practices should also be considered. Do you do anything that would leave yourself vulnerable to an attack or do you leave your property vulnerable to theft or vandalism?
  2. When examining the layout of your office or the office procedures, what exactly should you be looking for? The following are some tips to consider:

Access to your office should be limited and controlled. Criminals look for the target that is quick and easy to attack. Premises that present the least risk to the criminal are prime targets. Ensure back doors are locked at all times and insist all delivery drivers check in with the receptionist first. Have the receptionists desk strategically placed so that it is literally impossible for anyone to access your office without going through her/him first. Also, have photocopiers, computers or any other office equipment to be used by the receptionist in plain view of the front door to enable continuous surveillance of this access point. Establish and enforce strict procedures for allowing individuals past the front desk. For example, have employees come to the front and escort visitors to the back. Do not let strangers wander your hall alone. Check identification of any service personnel and confirm with building management that they are expected. Someone will know they are coming. Don’t be fooled by well dressed individuals or by individuals who throw around names. Con artists are good at what they do and have a wide variety of tools and techniques at their disposal. Do not vary from your established procedures.

If washrooms in your building are located out of your immediate office and can be accessed by the public, they should be kept locked at all times. The key can be kept with the receptionist. It is typical for individuals to hide in the washroom shortly before closing, giving them free run of the premises when staff have left for the day. Many office break and enters occur this way. It is also possible for a culprit to hide in an unlocked washroom and attack an unsuspecting employee. Typically, washrooms are located “down the hall and to the right”, secluded from the normal office activity; thereby leaving them somewhat vulnerable. All washrooms should be checked at closing time.

All employees should be instructed to challenge any strangers. This includes people who may work in the building but do not belong on a certain floor or in a certain office area. In most cases, a polite “Can I help you?” will suffice.

Restrict office keys to those who really need them and keep a record of who they are issued to. Change locks if moving into a new office and make sure all keys are marked “Do Not Duplicate”.

Your office might also consider some type of coded telephone alert system to and/or from the receptionist. Such a system could be used to summon assistance if a hostile situation should arise. Problem clients/customers should have their files flagged.

Look at your own immediate work space. Is your office set up with you trapped behind a desk? Do customers or clients sit closer to the door than you? You should organize your office furniture so that you can escape should the need arise. Also, look at your desk top. Are there potential weapons present? Scissors, message spikes, vases. If a situation gets out of hand, anything can quickly be turned into a weapon and used against you. If your office has windows, keep the blinds open when interviewing someone. Other staff members and people on the street can monitor the situation and provide assistance if need be.

Always keep purses in locked drawers and never leave your wallet in a jacket pocket, on a coat tree or chair back. More credit cards are stolen in the workplace than any other location.

Use the buddy system when travelling around the building or to the parkade. Phone ahead and let people know you are coming and let them know the route you plan to take. Don’t get on an elevator if there is someone on it you don’t feel good about. Wait for the next one. Always stand near the elevator control panel so you can get off on the next floor or sound the emergency alarm should you encounter a problem.

These are only a few of the tips you should be thinking about when examining your office security. Most are simply good common sense; but remember, if they are not practised, they will not help. All employees must do their part to make it work.

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