Standardising industrial security before another calamity

The Industrial Security Foundation (ISF) founded in 1992 (incorporated by Act No. 51 of 1999) with corporate security, professionals and several Police and Armed services personnel with Founder President Edward Gunawardena was established to enhance the standard of industrial security which lacked professionalism along with proper training systems in safety, fire, first-aid and knowledge of the law. However, it has failed to achieve its objectives and desired vision.

Unfortunately, the ISF has failed not only due to certain drawbacks, but mainly due to the lack of support from the government and its agencies - namely the Defence Ministry and the Labour Department, not excluding the corporate structure of the private sector.

The private sector never desired to provide basic facilities and always stinted to provide industrial security its well deserved recognition as its objective was to reduce costs, not realising that it preferred to engage untrained and poor quality staff, as it always felt that security did not generate an income.

By now, the Defence Ministry should declare industrial security as a national vocational training qualification like any other trade or profession.

The Ministry should ensure that industrial security personnel are adequately trained in basic security measures such as law and order, investigation, protection of scenes of crime, giving evidence in court of law, observations, firefighting, first-aid as well as parade.

If they are properly trained especially under the police training school for one or two months, they should also be recruited as temporary police officers with powers entrusted to them as police officers which will certainly enhance their image and give them a sense of authority and confidence even in apprehending suspects, criminals and terrorists.

In Sri Lanka, an industrial security officer is the lowest paid employee in any private or government institution today. Even an office peon with the least responsibility is paid more! A security officer has to work continuously for 12 hours to get a meagre wage.

This security officer is sans medical leave and proper insurance which is not commensurate with the risks he takes and is sans casual leave or medical facilities. He has also been deprived of an allowance or meals when he is called upon to perform 12 hours of work even in the night and at locations which have no transport facilities to purchase a meal.

This is certainly a wakeup call not only for the government but for the corporate sector of private institutions in ensuring effective security systems in every sphere of operation. The Defence Ministry should ensure that all institutions engage properly trained and contented staff with adequate facilities such as lodging, food and free uniforms and accessories.

In fact, all institutions in the public and private sectors must equip themselves with CCTV cameras and train personnel to constantly monitor them not only after an incident, but to observe and alert security staff in suspicious circumstances.

Now it is of paramount importance that hotels resort to equipping themselves with X-ray machines at the entrances and their purchasing points ensuring that no room is left for lapses in terms of explosives being permitted by anyone.

Perhaps this is a very expensive exercise, but if this country is to progress, we need to take all steps in prevention. But, we need to train all personnel to identify dangerous goods, explosives and drugs.

The public and the private sector should realise that the damage and loss caused to any institution and the country at large in terms of loss of lives, assets, income and economy is not recoverable even though insurance companies provide them with some relief as recovery.

Even the attacks on Easter Sunday, April 21 could have been averted had the churches and the respective hotels had well-trained security officers who were capable of observing these unusual and improperly attired terrorists roaming and visiting with their backpacks and perhaps discouraged and brought some sense of fear of identification or diverted their attention where the loss and damage would have been even less.

The time is most opportune for the government and the private sector to take note of the upgrading of industrial security without waiting for another disaster.

(The writer is a graduate of the Institute of International Security – UK)

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