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Who should set the standards?

Who Should Set the Standards?

Security Professionals are talking about government-issued mandates for security and loss prevention standards. It's a subject that has been debated for years. To date, no consensus has been reached and the only substantial action that has been taken on the federal level is at airports and on college campuses.

The debate goes something like this: With dramatic increases in workplace crime and the number of liability suits filed against companies, building owners, and employees, many security professionals are now considering the benefits of federal regulations. Standards would help them outline the type of protection needed for specific properties and would establish responsibility for security.

Employees' right activists argue that since the government's Occupational

Safety and Health Act (OSHA) creates standards to protect employees from machinery, contaminants, and environmental hazards, it seems logical to create standards for security that would protect employees from robbery, rape, and homicide.

Even though the majority of injuries and deaths in the workplace are classified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as unintentional, an increasing percentage is attributed to security risks. NIOSH reports that 12 percent of workplace deaths are homicides. Of those who died in the workplace between 1980 and 1988, 39 percent of the women and 11 percent of the men were homicide victims.

Federal regulations may also improve the quality of supplier equipment and service. Because the industry lacks standards, security managers may be purchasing equipment from inexperienced vendors selling inexpensive, lowgrade security products. Many of these vendors recommend systems that are inefficient or inappropriate for a site's needs, and often the vendors do not provide installation assistance.

On the other hand, federal regulations would create a bureaucracy for those protecting property and for those installing and manufacturing the protection systems. Mandates would require building owners to spend more money to maintain their systems; many would have to upgrade their current equipment or even replace it.

Shouldn't security professionals and suppliers be responsible for providing the best security system without being forced to do so by the federal government? Instead of being influenced by the lowest bid, a security manager should be involved during building construction or retrofit because he or she has an ethical - not a legal - responsibility to install and maintain the most practical and efficient system.

The fire protection industry may hold the answer. Four groups in that industry have established standards for building owners, specifying engineers, contractors, and system manufacturers. They are the National Fire Protection Association, Building Officials and Code Administrators, International Conference of Building Codes, and Southern Building Code Congress, International. These associations have written and updated the codes for fire protection that are followed by local and state inspectors.

Experts in fire protection and building design are responsible for these standards - not the federal government. Like some security managers, many building owners and specifying engineers and contractors are still swayed by low bids. They tend to base purchasing decisions purely on economics instead of on quality and specific system needs. But unlike security systems, fire systems are inspected regularly by local authorities to ensure proper maintenance.

Security professionals and building associations can learn a great deal about setting standards by following the lead of the fire protection professionals. It makes great sense for us to establish our own parameters before the federal government does it for us.

Ken Dolder is security systems product manager for Simplex Time Recorder Company in Gardner, MA. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:security and loss prevention standards
Author:Dolder, Ken
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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