Advances in Security Technologies Can Boost Workplace Safety

By Bryan Grenon, Director of Critical Infrastructure for ADT Commercial’s Enterprise Security Risk Group

With June designated National Safety Month by America’s National Safety Council, there’s an increased focus on eliminating the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths at home and in the workplace.

Violent incidents on the job are a very real, chronic, and growing risk for workers across all industries and occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatalities due to violence and intentional injuries inflicted by another person in the workplace increased by more than 10% in 2021, with 718 deaths.

Security leaders in business sectors, such as retail, healthcare and education, and those who have experienced violent incidents, are taking positive steps to enhance prevention and safety measures at their sites. Yet given its recognition as a top occupational hazard, some businesses may not be well-prepared to prevent a violent attack that can result in financial and reputational costs – ranging from lost business and productivity to higher insurance rates and potential liability if reasonable efforts have not been taken to make their premises safe for employees and visitors.

The growing frequency of violent attacks in the workplace and public spaces continues to draw widespread attention. It is prompting employers to pursue best practices and innovative technologies that can help protect their greatest asset – their people.

The best first step employers can take is to adopt and enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence that covers all workers, customers, patients in healthcare environments, visitors, patrons, or anyone encountering company employees. A well-rounded approach requires a top-down commitment and ongoing participation at all company levels, including written policies and controls and training and drills – often led by local law enforcement – to prevent or mitigate hazardous situations. Training exercises should also include an emergency action plan, so every employee is aware of the procedures and protections in place and has a way to exit the property safely during a crisis. The next key step is assessing the company or location’s unique risks and recognizing any key vulnerabilities, then identifying priority solutions to help close existing gaps in the site’s physical security program.

Security decision-makers can determine the best site-specific technologies to address existing or emerging risks following the risk assessment. Safety and security technologies are tools proven to help prevent, detect and deter violent incidents. These tools continue to evolve and scale with sophisticated innovations that help bring critical security system activities to the forefront. Foundational systems to assess include:

  • Access control and visitor management systems to help limit property access to only approved employees and visitors. Advanced access control systems can include features such as; something you know (a password or code), something you have (a key card), or something you are (a biometric reading like an iris scan or fingerprint).
  • Sophisticated security alarms can include mobile panic or duress alarms to send a silent or discreet alert to law enforcement or first responders in an emergency without alerting an assailant.
  • Advanced video management systems can be programmed to flag visual signs of violence and are powerful tools for real-time monitoring and evidence gathering. Footage can be provided to first responders to quickly assess and respond to an emergency or to pinpoint a violent aggressor’s location.

In addition to these bedrock solutions, organizations of all sizes continue looking for how new technology can help improve workplace safety while driving other positive business outcomes.

Future-forward technology innovations in development, such as humanoid robots and autonomous drones, are being pilot-tested today for adoption by commercial companies to enhance existing guard force capabilities during critical after-hours periods and limit human exposure to potentially dangerous situations. These technologies are being developed to function as an additional layer of 24/7 surveillance to patrol commercial facilities, seamlessly capture and document evidence, increase on-site surveillance amid labor shortages, and in the future, may be able to help drive faster emergency response times by providing alarm verification to first responders.

The trend of companies scaling back corporate office space as they offer workers the option to work from home has also resulted in the need for hardening remaining facilities in the now less populated downtown areas that may pose new safety and security risks.

Hardening facilities where employees can shelter in place, such as installing office doors made from steel instead of wood, windows with bullet-resistant glass, and implementing mobile duress alarms to alert authorities about the presence of an active assailant, can offer protection until emergency responders can arrive. Additionally, access control, visitor management and video surveillance systems are recommended in these areas to help ensure the safety of employees as they enter or exit the buildings and to help protect them while on site.

Securing the workplace with these tried and tested security methods can help provide safeguards against violent incidents in the workplace. As enhanced features and new technologies mature, they can build upon existing methods and practices to enhance worker safety.

Implementing appropriate, site-specific technologies to reduce risk and help prevent or mitigate violent incidents are most effective when part of a company’s comprehensive security strategy to recognize and address risks, engage and empower employees through communication, and train on emergency action plans – all helping to create a company culture and environment of workplace safety.

Bryan Grenon is the Director of Critical Infrastructure for ADT Commercial’s Enterprise Security Risk Group and serves as the subject matter expert on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, focusing on physical security standards for critical infrastructure. Grenon’s 30-year law enforcement career at the Seattle Police Department, culminating in his role as Assistant Chief of Police, involved collaborating with city, state and federal emergency officials to conduct strategic planning, risk mitigation, emergency response and recovery for all potentially hazardous events.

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