The novel coronavirus pandemic is creating an unprecedented degree of business disruption, impacting virtually every industry in the U.S. in some way—and the professional security services industry is no different. The roughly 1.1 million private guards in the U.S. face an elevated occupational risk of COVID-19 exposure, because many have frequent interactions with the public as part of their routine duties.
From a broader perspective, the security guard services industry is in a rapid and profound state of turmoil as a result of the crisis. Overall, the industry is seeing a significant degree of redeployment; some sectors have been heavily impacted by organizational slowdowns and closings, while others are seeing substantially higher demand for guard services as a critical infrastructure need.
All Risks, Ltd.'s National Specialty Programs’ Underwriting Manager, Jeff Moyer, says, “Some areas are seeing notable decreases (education, hotels, retail), but there are definitely upticks in others, such as healthcare, grocery, and protection of closed businesses.” As an example, industry giant Securitas recently announced adding 1,000 jobs across California to keep pace with higher client demand for guarding hospitals, healthcare facilities, clinics and grocery stores.
For security services companies, their top priority is keeping their workforce safe, especially those assigned to high-risk areas such as healthcare facilities. To this end, the following list of precautions for security officers can help minimize risk of exposure.
Recommended Security Guard Precautions for Protecting Against COVID-19
1. Wash hands frequently. One of the simplest and most effective ways for guards to protect themselves is to wash their hands often (optimally every two hours), for at least 20 seconds. Use proper technique, thoroughly scrubbing your palms and backs of your hands.
2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands to reduce the risk of exposure from contaminated surfaces. If possible, use hand sanitizer (60% alcohol or higher) to disinfect your hands every two hours when on duty. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
3. To the extent possible, limit close contact with others, especially potentially infected persons. A minimum of six feet of separation is advisable to protect from droplet infection. When patrolling, keeping as much distance from people as possible is recommended.
4. Review and update your PPE (personal protection equipment) hazard assessment to address COVID-19. Provide safety glasses/goggles, disposable nitrile gloves, and available respiratory protection (e.g., FDA-approved surgical masks) for security guards who make frequent contact with the public. (The links at the end of the article can provide specific PPE recommendations for related professions.)5. Implement protective measures to adapt work areas or security stations to minimize the chance of viral spread. For example:
- Use tape or other visible floor markings to mark a six-foot distance to remind people who are standing in line to maintain appropriate distance from the security guard and other people in line.
- Many retail locations are installing Plexiglas or acrylic glass barriers to safeguard employees from potential droplet infection. If possible, these barriers can be used to protect guard stations.
- If applicable, visually verify ID badges or identification without the use of touching or physical contact. Also, to the extent possible, use technology to help maximize physical distance (e.g., using walk-through metal detectors vs. hand-held wands).
6. Since the virus has been proven to last on surfaces as long as three days or more depending on the material, it’s important to frequently disinfect common work areas and objects that others can touch (phones, radios, scanners, keyboards, etc.). Use an EPA-approved disinfectant whenever possible.
7. Ensure access to clean restrooms. While sometimes difficult depending on the location or job site, it’s important that on-duty security officers have access to bathroom facilities for handwashing. Otherwise, ensure that sufficient hand sanitizer is readily available for frequent use.
8. Wash work clothes or uniforms at the end of the day. After a long shift patrolling (especially sites with a higher degree of public contact such as healthcare facilities, grocery stores, etc.), washing your uniform and drying at a higher temperature setting will provide an added measure of safety.
9. Additionally, taking an extra minute or two to sanitize your duty belt, radio, gear and other equipment with an antiviral wipe or approved disinfectant can help lower your risk of infection.
It is important that all employees are thoroughly trained on new work procedures and protective measures that have been implemented in response to COVID-19. New or refresher training might include proper use of PPE (properly wearing/removing to avoid infection), and conflict de-escalation strategies and techniques. For example, visitor restrictions at healthcare facilities may necessitate family members who attempt to visit patients be turned away. Or, grocery stores experiencing stock shortages may be faced with agitated customers and potential conflict.
Supervisors should check in frequently with guards via mobile phone, radio or rounds to monitor for any issues and ensure that all COVID-19 related procedures are being followed. Supervisors and management should also seek to stay current with state/regional and local news alerts on COVID-19.
For the latest information, the CDC website is a comprehensive source of news and guidance, posting daily updates on the novel coronavirus.
Additional information on specific topics relating to security guards can be found at these helpful sources:
- Guidance for Border Protection Workers – OSHA
- Guidance for Law Enforcement Personnel – CDC
- Interim Guidance for EMS for COVID-19 – CDC
For more information, or for a PDF overview of COVID-19 Precautions for Security Service Firms, please contact National Specialty Programs Underwriting Manager, Jeff Moyer, at 410-828-5810, extension 3702, or via email at email@example.com.
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