Quality in ownership, finance and staffing
This is going to be a two-part article on the current Irish security quality standard for the Guarding Services and Door Supervision sector. In this article I’ll talk about some of the criteria for ownership of a security company and some of the issues around selection and screening. Next weeks article will go into training and operations.
In 2013 the Private Security Authority replaced the old IS 999:2001 Guarding Services with their own newly designed and updated standard for contractors. The PSA 28:2013 quality standard was designed to meet the needs of the industry by regulating companies in the Door and Guarding sectors. While there are over 20,000 people employed and working for contract security companies around Ireland not many of them know of the standard under which they operate. The standard and meeting its requirements tends to be reserved for management and administration staff. In this article I want to shed a little light for the frontline staff on what the standard entails and what is supposed to be in place with every company who has achieved it.
The licencing process
Firstly a quick over view on the company licencing process. The PSA require an application to be downloaded and completed to apply for a contractor licence. The checklist for this is quite extensive and includes things such as tax clearance for all directors, criminal clearance for all directors, a list of operational management staff, insurance, certificate of incorporation (and of course the fee). The most important item however is a certificate of compliance with the PSA28:2013 standard. This certificate can only be given out by a small number of companies. These companies are independent and charge significant amounts of money to come to a potential contractors office and conduct the audit required to get the standard. Once all aspects of the audit are complete they are awarded the standard. This process then has to be completed every two years on an ongoing basis.
Contents of the Standard
The contents are broken into a number of headings:
- Compliance with PSA legislation
There are then 2 further subsections which relate specifically to criteria for the Guarding Services sector and the Door Supervision sector respectively.
The first part of the organisation section is ownership. Who owns the company? Who are its directors and are there any other people who aren’t directors who stand to benefit from the company. Do the directors own or have an interest in any other security company.
There must also be employment screening for the previous 5 years for all directors.
The companies finances must be in good order as must the directors. Directors will be asked to prove that they haven’t been declared bankrupt previously and that they can obtain an up to date tax clearance certificate. They may also be requested to supply cash flow statements to show projected sales and income for the future.
The company must have a range of types of insurance in place including:
- Public liability and employee liability
- Deliberate act insurance
- Motor insurance for company vehicles
- Fidelity insurance (insurance taken out to cover against dishonesty by employers)
- Loss of keys
- Wrongful arrest
- Efficacy insurance ( Provides coverage in the event that a project does not meet the technical level of performance required by the contract. Also known as failure to perform )
- Professional indemnity
For contracts where Door Supervisors are supplied they must have in place Deliberate Act insurance with each client individually covered on it.
There has to be a registered business premises with lockable storage units. The premises has to be covered by an intruder alarm which has to have been installed by and monitored by a registered PSA provider of these services.
This is a big area and probably the one which generates the most workload for companies. It’s also one where larger companies have a perceived advantage with full-time admin teams. The small operator who is trying to run manage and work in the company faces significant workload here. That’s not to say that they are of a lower standard than the big players just that they have to work harder to keep up.
Selection and pre-employment
This is the greatest amount of admin work for any company. Every person interviewed must have an interview record which must be retained along with a completed application form. I certainly agree with the application form part as it is an early chance to test English reading and writing skills.
Every person hired has to have a staff file containing among other things :
- Application form
- Proof of qualification
- Proof of licence
- Work permit if applicable
- Screening (I’ll get to this in a minute)
This is the really intensive part. The company has to go back 5 years in employment (or until school-leaving) and get firstly phone references and then follow this up with written confirmation of the reference. Sounds easy until your spending weeks chasing people to send you written confirmation back. This is most commonly where small companies struggle. There is a facility for a person is moving from one security company to another whereby the hiring company can request the employees file from the previous company including all of the screening carried out already. This should make things simpler but invariably leads to animosity between companies when it isn’t provided in a timely manner or even at all. This is sometime due to the fact that the screening was never carried out initially or sometimes because they don’t want to help a competitor.
I can understand delays with screening being carried out. I have seen cases where the previous employers have all been in another country and none of them speak English. This can be a nightmare for employers. I’ve long been an advocate of a type of security passport for operatives whereby references, training qualifications etc. can be uploaded to a personal file sharing system and employers can have a link shared with them by the employee to speed the whole process. The current expectation that an employer retains a copy of the employees for 5 years is both a burden and a data protection concern for many small businesses.
Terms and conditions
The issue of contracts and terms and conditions has been a concern in the security industry for many years. The quality standard insists that every employee is given a contract containing the terms and conditions outlined below at a minimum. The ERO has also placed further emphasis on minimum working hours for security operatives. However, anecdotally I still hear of employees on a weekly basis working without a written contract or terms and conditions. Some times this is through oversight on both parties but often it is through a fear of standing up and asking for the contract for fear of losing your job.
The items which should be contained in the terms and conditions document are as follows:
Effective start date.
Pay and Allowances.
Provisional period subject to screening.
Hours of work, days of work, shift frequency and shift variables.
Sick pay (conditions of payment) and pension entitlement.
Industrial injury procedure.
Employer’s registered address.
Equipment to be supplied.
Disciplinary and grievance procedures.
Terms of notice and termination.
Collective Agreements (copies available) covering the
The Organisation’s Health and Safety Statement.
The Organisation’s Equality policy.
Workplace Bullying/Harassment policy.
E-mail, Telephone and Internet policy.
Code of conduct
Every company is entitled to have its own code of conduct but the PSA also has a set of conduct conditions which it insists upon for every employee. It also insists on every employee having a signed copy of it in their file. It makes a good compliance tool for when people step out of line then.
One thing tha never sat right with me was the last line however. There is a 15 point code of conduct for employees that every single employee must sign up to. At the end of that code is a single line ” Employers shall treat employees with courtesy and respect.” I always thought two things:
- Considering the quality standard is for security companies then that line should be at the very top of code of conduct not the bottom.
- Where is the 15 charter for how employers should behave towards employees? Where is the compliance tool for the employee to use?
Doesnt seem like a balanced system to me if I’m honest.
Identification and Uniform
The last two sections I’m going to deal with this week is identification and uniform. Identification is straightforward. Employees must wear either their PSA licence or a company ID designed in a specific way to identify themselves while at work.
Uniforms should be supplied by the employer and it should bear the logo of the employer. The cost must also be borne by the employer and to be honest the idea of employees still being asked to supply or pay for their own uniform is outdated and ridiculous.
Subject to wear and tear the uniform should be replaced by the company. It remains the property of the company and should be returned at the end of employment.
I’ve changed my mind. This was going to be a two-part article but now it will actually be a three-part. That is because there one more section in staffing that I havent covered which I think deserves an article all to itself next week. That section is managing the risk of violence to employees. It is the single biggest deficiency in the Irish security industry in my opinion. I’m going to into that quite extensively next week.
This article is about the quality standard PSA 28:2013 not about bashing security companies. I think the introduction of the standard has been a real success and I’m not knocking it. I also think that security operatives should make themselves much more aware of the effort, cost and work that goes into setting up a security company. There are some negatives in here and some stuff that I think could be done a lot better but that’s just my opinion. Every little thing we can do as an industry to make ourselves better is a step in the right direction and the quality standard is just another step.