Businesses around the world face security threats almost every day. Investing in physical security to protect employees and assets has become increasingly important, especially during the current global pandemic. “We’re doing everything possible, checking every box, to make sure we’re providing the tools, training, and solutions for our employees to keep them safe,” said Brian Schmidt, Senior Manager of Global Physical Security at Zynga. The success of any business in any industry must do a risk assessment to identify present hazards to avoid future threats to have functional and practical physical security measures. But what threats are deemed the most serious, and how can they be prevented?
The top five security threats detected in 2022 are workplace violence, crime/theft, natural disasters, biosecurity, and the push to move employees completely remote (WFH).
1. Workplace violence
Workplace violence ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. The four types of relationships that can cause workplace violence typically are worker-on-worker, customer/client, personal relationships, and criminal intent. Unfortunately, this type of violence happens at a startling rate in the US.
According to a recent report, 1 in 7 people don’t feel safe at their workplace. That’s an alarming number of people who spend 40+ hours a week feeling uneasy or unsafe while contributing to the success and growth of the company.
Not only does workplace violence affect individual employees, but about $130 billion is lost to workplace violence every year.
If employees don’t feel confident in their daily safety — how should we expect them to do their jobs adequately?
How physical security can prevent workplace violence
- Control whom you’re letting into your facilities and when — even your employees. 21% of workplace violence incidents occur with existing employees, and 79% involve people who shouldn’t have been able to enter the building in the first place.
Identify warning signs:
- Technology tools help identify threats and compliance issues across social media and the dark web.
- Relevant for both internal threats from employees and external.
- Integration of data and cooperation between teams
- Create a fuller picture using physical security, cybersecurity and HR
There has undoubtedly been an increase in crime since the pandemic swept the nation in early 2020. Companies of all sizes are more at risk of burglary, robbery, vandalism, shoplifting, theft, and fraud than ever before. An unfortunate trend supporting this increase is the rise of “flash mob” style burglaries. The criminals’ strategy is to commit crimes en masse, limiting the likelihood of police or security apprehending all suspects. The traditional security guard is not equipped to stand up to a sizable group and cannot handle the situation.
According to the Organized Retail Crime Survey, in 2020, retail businesses experienced a 9.8% increase in losses due to retail crime compared to 2019. This totals to $719,548 per Billion dollars of sales revenue.
How physical security can help:
- Having a strategy for if and when these types of crimes occur is vital.
- Most of these crimes are highly coordinated ahead of time via social media. Social media monitoring can detect these events in time for physical security measures to be implemented. (see tip #1 about having a strategy in place before you find out the event is happening, so you’re prepared and not caught off guard and be forced to think quickly and on the spot).
- Utilize technology that would allow the location/high-value items to be locked down quickly, record the crimes in progress
3. Natural Disasters
Natural disasters have increased by a factor of five over the past 50 years, primarily fueled by climate change. With these disasters only expected to worsen and happen more often, companies need to prioritize more useful security systems to keep their employees and assets safe.
Fortunately, thanks to improved early warnings and disaster management, the number of deaths decreased almost three-fold. However, there are still snags in current systems that do not adequately communicate these warnings and plans to employees, like the preventable death of six employees from a tornado in Illinois at the end of 2021, so more effective systems can save even more lives.
Business continuity and recovery plans for hazardous weather are essential for companies. Some systems can utilize early warnings to detect these events, alert companies, and properly communicate to employees to put their disaster evacuation plans in place. Companies can get ahead of the disaster to protect their employees.
Now, more than ever, employee and company safety comes with an emphasis on physical health. Once health and safety teams who were more concerned about appeasing The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have now become novice epidemiologists, keeping up on the latest COVID strains and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
Although the need for biosecurity is currently at the forefront of minds, it is not a new need. The flu pandemic dates back to 1918 and cost American workers over $16 billion in earnings annually. According to the CDC, 29,000,00 people were infected with the flu, 380,000 were hospitalized, and 28,000 deaths occurred 2018-2019.
Companies can have security systems that utilize all data inputs for enhanced contact tracing to combat and prevent major pandemics like COVID-19 and the flu. Putting these systems in place will help protect a company’s most significant asset, its employees.
Companies taking charge of their biosecurity will benefit society as a whole. Protecting the physical health of their employees will prevent the spread of disease within the company and community, therefore minimizing the risk for pandemics.
5. Back to Work / Hybrid
When the pandemic started in early 2020, millions worldwide transitioned from office to home. Suddenly, keeping people safe on the job also meant protecting employees while in their own homes. With some going back to in-office work and others permanently working from home, the physical security of an organization’s employees and their assets has become a more complex issue and requires more attention.
According to Omdia’s 2021 Future of Work survey, 36% of employees report minimal office time, primarily conducting work from home or remote-based; 24% of employees are permanently based in an office, but 22% utilize a hybrid work environment.
As the dynamic of work changes, the way we approach security has to change too.
Physical security tools:
- Space management/registration: Having people register for a desk before coming in lets you know who will be in the office and when. If something abnormal happens, like an employee unexpectedly using access control to enter a building, the right teams can be notified immediately and take action.
- Visitor management: Now, having a record of who visited when is even more important for things like contact tracing.
- Merge the siloed cyber and physical security teams. These systems need to work together to understand how they affect each other for total operational efficiency.
Companies owe a duty of care to their employees to keep them safe and protected from the ever-growing complexity of physical security threats. With the increased intricacy and amount of physical threats, new approaches and technologies are necessary to protect employees and prevent physical security breaches effectively. Properly assessing and gathering all the physical security data available to a company allows them to become proactive instead of reactive, protecting companies and their employees and saving lives.