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Time to brush up on security

Author : Chris Parkes, Julius Rutherfoord operations director

16 January 2017

Blaming the cleaner when something goes missing is a bit of a cliché, and certainly the stereotype is unfair for the vast majority of cleaning operatives.

However, there have been plenty of cases of security lapses in contract cleaning that have damaged the industry’s reputation over the years.

These include a recent case of a burglar who had been posing as a cleaner in London, and stole £17,000 worth of office equipment and cash from facilities he had tricked his way into.

This particular case dealt was a lone wolf criminal masquerading as a cleaner, but there can be no doubt that contract cleaning companies also need to step up their security vetting procedures.

During the initial security vetting of staff Julius Rutherfoord inherits through the Transfer of Undertakings process, the company often rejects between 20% and 40% due to forged or out-of-date IDs.

Fake documents simply should not get through if rigorous security vetting procedures are in place.

As well as the risk of theft or damage to property that can result from poor security vetting, there are other serious concerns around issues such as terrorism, the personal safety of other staff in the building, and the safety and wellbeing of cleaning operatives themselves.

The cleaning industry has a reputation for a high staff turnover, and while the best contract cleaners will have a progressive attitude towards their workforce to improving staff retention and safety, there are other unscrupulous agencies that do not.

The Home Office estimates that 500,000 to 900,000 people work illegally in Britain, many in the capital.

There have been cases of employers knowingly taking on illegal workers and seeking to exploit or blackmail them. This is despite facing penalties of up to £5,000 for each illegal worker employed and even tougher penalties under the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

This pioneering legislation gives police officers and other enforcement agencies the tools they need to crack down on employers exploiting and enslaving workers, and to support victims.

It is the first legislation of its kind in Europe, and promises tough penalties for any offenders, including life jail sentences and enforced business closure.

Best Practice

The headline is that the world in which we live and work has much higher security risks than ever before.

It will come as no surprise to anyone working in the capital that we all need to be more vigilant and ensure we carry out thorough checks of where we work and to whom we trust our assets.

Estates and facilities managers should be asking their cleaning supplier about their security vetting procedures and the legality of their workforce.

For instance, how thorough are their background checks? Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks will only go so far, and are useless if the ID in question is fake.

No-one should be able to work within a business without first providing photographic ID with a machine-readable zone (MRZ) so its validity can be checked.

Ask your cleaning organisation how it makes identity checks, and also whether they verify documents through validated document checkers. Depending on the locations that you require your cleaner to access, facilities managers should also seek to establish whether cleaning operatives have been checked against the Children’s Barred List.

The British Standard BS 7858:2012 is the recognised benchmark for performing candidate and employee screening within the UK and clients should be asking if their cleaning company are vetting to this level.

Once employed, the checks and balances should not stop. Attendance and tracking technology can make sure that the right people are in the right place at the right time – this includes biometric identification using finger print or iris recognition, and GPS vehicle tracking.

If this is all sounding a bit ‘big brother’ it is worth remembering that security vetting also helps to keep cleaning operatives themselves safe.

Everyone has the right to work in secure environments, and cleaners are often expected to access buildings out of hours, either alone or in teams.

Ensuring that everyone is who they say they and are where they are supposed to be is key to ensuring their security and supporting the security of the facility they are cleaning.

Additional information

Julius Rutherfoord has published a new best practice white paper – Security in Cleaning – together to highlight the challenges of ensuring the safety and security of facilities being cleaned and the operatives cleaning them.

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