Commercial property: security

A sense of security

20 June 2014

Chris Pinder advises on what to look for in ensuring that suppliers of security services are up to scratch

A European definition of 'security' is a broad one and combines the sectors the UK terms separately as 'fire' and 'private security'. This wider security sector is one that is hugely taken for granted, and, dare I say, underestimated in the UK. In reality, its contribution to the economy and life safety is immense.

All organisations, regardless of size, need some degree of security. However, with so many companies delivering security solutions, it is not surprising that potential clients and specifiers find choosing between them confusing.

Certification key

So how can you reduce the risk, identify the reputable provider and eliminate the clichéd cowboy? Well, certification is arguably the most valuable and easily accessible tool at your disposal and is a good starting point.

Think Corgi (now GasSafe) and the concept and the value of certification, sometimes referred to as 'accreditation' becomes apparent. More specifically, this refers to third party certification, meaning assessment by an independent party that confirms the contractor (the security solutions provider) is working in line with recognised and accepted industry standards.

Sector-specific standards are fundamental to any credible certification process and form the benchmark against which to inspect or audit. It is worth noting that the term product standard is used regardless of whether it is a physical or a service-related product. If the product standards themselves are not of sufficient quality then the certification process itself is devalued.

So how can you reduce the risk, identify the reputable provider and eliminate the clichéd cowboy?

Fortunately, the security sector has robust standards drawn together by industry experts and accepted as best practice by the sector at large. They are recognised across the world, underpinning meaningful certification and
providing reassurance to the end user.

Certification, of course, also includes audits against management standards, which are more generic and applicable to all businesses regardless of sector. ISO9001 is the management standard we are all familiar with.

There are a number of bodies offering third party certification services. Checking your contractor has been independently audited by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited certification body will provide additional peace of mind; essentially the sole service approved by government to inspect the inspectorates.

Approval checklist

In choosing a security contractor, request sight of their Certificate of Approval. That certificate will inform you precisely what security disciplines have been assessed and approved. For example, should you wish to contract a company to install fire alarms yet their certificate only says they have been approved for the installation of intruder alarms, you will know that particular company has not been independently approved for the service you require.

The security sector has robust standards drawn together by industry experts and accepted as best practice by the sector at large

Beware of clever marketing. Phrases such as 'work to industry standards' or 'installations in line with European standards' do not necessarily mean that the company has actually been independently assessed and approved. Get the proof, or validate the claim by contacting the certification body by which they claim to be assessed.

There are some simple steps that will help you find a contractor and provide added peace of mind:

  • investigate which, if any, British, European or International standards are relevant to the solution you require (sector-specific certification bodies or trade associations can advise)
  • check that your potential contractor has been approved by a third party certification body
  • check that the certification body is accredited by UKAS and has the relevant expertise
  • beware of clever marketing
  • check that your potential contractor's Certificate of Approval is for the solutions you seek?
  • should you have any doubts as to your potential contractor’s claims, speak to the relevant certification body.

Chris Pinder is External Affairs Director at the National Security Inspectorate

Further information

Related competencies include: Health and safety