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Face Masks – Are There Implications for Security Teams?

Face Masks – Are There Implications for Security Teams?
16 July 2020 | Updated 03 August 2020
 

With mask-wearing becoming mandatory in certain public buildings in England, FM security teams may have to take additional precautions to face this challenge.

Shops and supermarkets were the first buildings to be affected by the change in rules on 24 July, with several public spaces added to the list on 31 July. This includes cinemas, museums, storage and distribution facilities, public areas in hotels and hostels and places of worship.

These new rules will not be mandatory until 8 August, but the more widespread use of face masks generally does present some implications for security providers, in terms of CCTV effectiveness, the question of facial recognition and other risks.

What, if any, additional contingencies will security teams be making?

 

“There have been many changes in security processes over the years from human presence and manual checks to the move to technology and remote surveillance and asking people to lock away their laptops in the evening. This is just another transition to navigate in the tides of change.”

–Seetan Varsani

Regional Operations Director, Corps Security

 

Little Impact Expected With a “Layered Approach”

 

The team at Mitie commented that they don’t predict that there will be a huge amount of impact on well-trained security teams, if the wearing of facemasks becomes more commonplace.

Jason Towse, Managing Director of Business Services at Mitie, said: “The industry is defined by its ability to constantly adapt to a changing security landscape and the introduction of mandatory face coverings is no different. 

“Security officers are experienced in monitoring behaviour to spot activity that may be suspicious, a vital skill to prevent crime if individuals are wearing masks.

“Businesses with a layered approach, starting with a visible security presence, overlapped with technology solutions, proactive intelligence and well-trained officers, will ensure that the use of face coverings doesn’t impact building security.”

 

"Previously a face mask would stand out if someone was wearing one to hide their identity. As it becomes the norm, it voids that suspicion that our officers would have immediately picked up on. Face masks will also cover an opportunist’s face." 

–Theo Nicolaou

Director, SmartSec Solutions

Theo Nicolaou, Director at SmartSec Solutions, a specialist security and reception provider supporting organisations across the UK, similarly doesn’t envisage face masks being an issue in terms of recognising individuals:

“However, if there is someone we don’t quite recognise then we would, from a distance, ask them to drop the mask,” he told us.

Nicolaou did note that face masks can play into the hands of opportunists: “Previously a face mask would stand out if someone was wearing one to hide their identity. As it becomes the norm, it voids that suspicion that our officers would have immediately picked up on. Face masks will also cover an opportunist’s face. 

“Therefore, when we may revert to CCTV to identify someone following a break-in, the face mask could make it difficult for the police to find a clear description of the culprit.”

“From our point of view, the issue will be around governance. If face masks are made mandatory in offices then it will become far easier for us to enforce.  However, if they are left to the discretion within the corporate environment then we will rely on building-by-building procedures as to what the enforcement of face masks is.  

“It is absolutely critical for FM companies to send out a clear and definitive policy on wearing face masks within a building. Only with an absolutely clear policy will our job of policing this, be effective and cause less confrontation by those not willing to comply.”

 

Call to Make Facemasks Compulsory in all Offices and Workspaces

 

Jonathan Ratcliffe from office provider Offices.co.uk, believes that making facemasks compulsory in all common areas of offices and workspaces would increase employee confidence.

“We desperately need everyone back at work, and the confusion about whether it’s safe or not is not helpful at all. Including compulsory facemasks in offices and workplaces on 24 July sends a strong message that this is the new normal, and we need everyone back in the cities – even if they are wearing masks!”, he explained.

“The thinking is that by extending this compulsory requirement to all common areas of workspaces, offices and co-working spaces, that this normalises mask-wearing, and enables workers to get back into the cities and help the crippled city centre economies.”

Although the government have confirmed that there are no current plans to make mask-wearing compulsory in office spaces, Seetan Varsani, Regional Operations Director at Corps Security said that increased mask usage may make entry to a building a more lengthy process:

“Access and verification processes of course still need to be validated and this could mean that entry to a building could take a few seconds more as facial recognition technology will require short, temporary removal of masks. 

“With current low building occupancy rates this isn’t a problem, but further challenges will be presented if buildings return to full capacity. This likely won’t be for a long while yet though.”

 

“Most people want to do the right thing so will be compliant, but of course, there are a small number that won’t which will present further difficulties that security teams will need to be trained to manage."

–Seetan Varsani

Regional Operations Director, Corps Security

In terms of people resisting any newly enforced rules, Varsani states that communication at all levels is necessary to reduce this possibility:

“Most people want to do the right thing so will be compliant, but of course, there are a small number that won’t which will present further difficulties that security teams will need to be trained to manage.

“Communication within a building is so important. Security teams and buildings management need to engage with all stakeholders to educate them about why processes have changed and why they need to do things differently. This will ensure a smooth transition as people know what to expect.

“There have been many changes in security processes over the years from human presence and manual checks to the move to technology and remote surveillance and asking people to lock away their laptops in the evening. This is just another transition to navigate in the tides of change.”

Picture: A photograph of a person shopping in a supermarket, wearing a face mask

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 16 July 2020

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