Why Frontline Security Workers are Your Most Important Employees

If you’re a venue owner or manager and somebody were to ask you who your most important employees are, you might not immediately name your security staff.

You may not even mention them until near the end of the list, or perhaps not at all.

Perhaps your venue’s security staff are provided by an external company, so you don’t have much of an opportunity to build a working relationship with them, and thus don’t think about them very often.

Or perhaps, like so many venue managers, you’re focussed primarily on the inside of your venue, ensuring that the atmosphere is just right, the branding is on point, the music is appropriate, the staff are friendly etc. There’s no denying that it’s a big job.

Maybe, for you, finding somebody to stand outside is just one more headache, one more job to do.

…Or maybe, like most of the UK population, you just don’t think too much about security workers.

Security operatives quietly take care of undesirable customers, resolve difficult situations and provide both staff and customers with added peace of mind, but they’re often figuratively invisible until needed, confined to the same space of the mind as the fire extinguisher or your basic first aid training.

If your first thought after reading this was something along the lines of ‘of course not, security workers are absolutely vital’, then we thank you and urge you to read on and see exactly how vital, because it may be even more than you thought. However, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re on the right track.

If, however, you find that you’d not thought too much about the role security workers play until now, then it is imperative you read on, because security workers are infinitely more important than you probably assume them to be.

Security work is about so much more than guarding properties and perimeters, ejecting unpleasant or uncooperative patrons, and remaining vigilant against everything from fire to terrorism. Were the job simply confined to these basic activities, it would still place security staff among any venue’s most important employees, but security work covers more than that, a lot more.

Why do we Need Security?

The first, and most important duty of a security operative is to keep people safe. However, this is a very broad job description. In order to properly consider what ‘safety’ means in this context, we must briefly examine all the potential risks faced by the patrons in your venue on any given night.

  • A patron may be violently assaulted by a fellow patron. 
  • A patron may be sexually harassed or assaulted by a fellow patron.
  • A patron may be injured due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • An unconscious patron may require life-saving CPR or other first aid.
  • A patron with an existing medical condition may become incapacitated.
  • A pregnant patron may go into labour.
  • A patron could be stealing from other patrons.
  • An underage patron may attempt to purchase alcohol, something that, if successful, could see the venue investigated, fined, or even forcibly shut down.
  • A patron may bring weapons or other contraband into the venue.
  • A patron may be consensually or non-consensually exposed to dangerous drugs.
  • A patron may drink excessively, then, through inebriation, become a danger to themself or others.
  • A fire may break out in the venue, facilitating the need for an orderly exit from the premises.
  • An act of terrorism may be committed in or around the venue.
  • The police may need help to search the venue in pursuit of a suspect.
  • A violent crime may be committed near the premises.
  • A fight may break out outside the premises.
  • A citizen’s arrest may need to be performed by a trained professional.

Each of these risks can be potentially catastrophic, both to the business and its patrons. In each case, a person of sound judgement, who is trained to handle such a situation, is of paramount importance to the smooth running, indeed, the very survival, of the venue.

Any British venue is legally required to provide a safe place for its patrons and staff – and this simply cannot be achieved without the presence of good security operatives.

But a security operative’s duties extend beyond keeping people safe. A door supervisor can, for example, function as a kind of ‘brand ambassador’, being that they are the first venue employee that most patrons interact with.

A DS who is surly or aggressive from the outset may put patrons off and limit custom to the venue, thus, many of them are instructed to be polite and personable as a way of promoting the venue.

A DS inspecting the queue outside the venue can not only speed up the process of entry (thus ensuring a higher customer turnover) but can also deter would-be troublemakers before they’ve even gained access to the venue and can reduce the stress of waiting in line.

A friendly, professional DS at the door or inspecting the line sends a clear message to patrons that this venue, though perhaps loud and lively, is a safe place to spend an enjoyable evening.

In addition to being brand ambassadors, security workers are also trained mediators, who can verbally de-escalate a potentially violent situation; something that benefits both patrons and venues enormously.

Of course, there are no figures available detailing how many violent incidents have been avoided thanks to the timely and skilled intervention of security operatives, but we’re willing to bet that it’s a lot.

A good security operative acts as a trained pair of eyes and ears, constantly on the look-out for problems or trouble and usually stopping things before they start or get out of hand. They bring a sense of heightened awareness to the proceedings, spotting things that other staff members, who are not trained, may very well miss entirely or else be unsure how to handle.

A venue with a reputation for being rowdy and dangerous will soon attract a rowdy and dangerous clientele. Such a venue will likely not last long. A venue with a reputation for providing fun times, however, will attract a clientele in search of fun – and the security staff are where that reputation begins.

Having trusted security operatives on-site can greatly reduce your stress levels and boost your peace of mind. As manager, you are no doubt acutely aware of how much can go wrong on any given night, just as you are aware that, in many cases, you can legally be held responsible for things that do.

It’s therefore heartening to know that your security staff are the only other people on-site who know as well as you do how badly things can go on the wrong night. In addition, security workers are trained to resolve these situations quickly and efficiently.

Britain’s night-time economy is worth an estimated £60BN. Security staff are a vital part of that revenue and should be considered, as much as anything else, to be public servants.

What is Duty of Care?

All workplaces, regardless of the work being undertaken, have a legal and moral duty to ensure that everybody associated with them (including employees, volunteers, interns, outside contractors, remote workers, security staff, and the general public, among others) is as protected from harm, be it physical or psychological, as possible. This is what’s known as a duty of care.

This may seem like a big ask, but the UK’s stringent health and safety legislation has seen this country go from experiencing an average of 1000 work-related fatalities every year, to being statistically one of the safest places in the world to work

A duty of care is carried out via a combination of personal accountability, professional responsibility, good working practice, observance of health & safety rules (both the legal and company-specific varieties) and attention to detail.

High safety standards are not only one of the best aspects of modern Britain, they are also vital to the survival and prosperity of any workplace, including your venue.

A breach of duty occurs when a person or organisation fails to adequately care for those that they are legally obliged to keep safe. Should anybody be harmed, either physically or psychologically as a result of said breach, the person responsible is liable from a legal standpoint. Punishments can take the form of heavy fines or even prison time.

As a case in point, in 2014, a lone security worker was overcome by the fumes from a petrol generator and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The company he was working for had failed to undertake proper safety precautions and risk assessments for the generator and the security worker paid for their negligence with his life. The company was heavily fined and has since gone into liquidation.

Each and every time they work a shift, security operatives take a lot of responsibility onto their shoulders. The safety of others is paramount to their profession. It seems only fair that their employers also understand and appreciate their own responsibilities in as meaningful a fashion.

How Security Operatives Care for the Vulnerable

A security operative’s duty of care applies especially to vulnerable people. This can include children, homeless people, the disabled, and the elderly. For example, many lost children will first approach a security guard (or be approached by a security guard) to get help finding their parents or guardians.

Security operatives act as a visual deterrent, meaning that if a purse snatcher had designs on targeting an elderly woman, or a gang of thugs were thinking of accosting an old man, they would certainly not attempt to do so in the presence of a security operative.

Security operatives will assist the disabled in entering or exiting the premises safely and are able to respond quickly in the event of a medical emergency.

One of the most vulnerable groups of people are those that have had too much to drink, especially at night. Severely inebriated people are at risk from a number of dangers, including personal injury due to loss of coordination, starting or becoming involved in a violent altercation, drink spiking, theft/mugging, sexual assault and alcohol poisoning.

We advise all door supervisors, managers and venue owners to become familiar with the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk drinking guidelines. Knowing these will give security operatives a better idea of who has had too much to drink and is therefore in danger.

The guidelines state that it is not advisable to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week – and that that number should be spread across the week, as well as interspersed with days of avoiding alcohol entirely.

Any more than 6 units of alcohol consumed in a single session is considered ‘excessive’ and can be very dangerous indeed. It should also be remembered that alcohol affects people in different ways, some become inebriated at a faster rate – and after imbibing less alcohol – than others.

Security operatives are trained to spot the signs of a patron that has imbibed too much alcohol, being able to tell the difference between a patron who is functionally drunk and a patron who is drinking to excess.

If a patron is found to have ingested too much alcohol, a door supervisor will be able to

  • Seek medical advice (if needed)
  • Call an ambulance (if needed)
  • Keep a trained eye on the patron to ensure that they stay safe
  • Call the patron a cab to ensure that the patron gets home safely
  • Instruct bar staff to ‘cut them off’ and stop the patron from drinking further
  • Restrain the patron safely in the event that they become aggressive
  • Talk the patron into going home
  • Talk the patron’s friends into taking them home
  • Verbally de-escalate any potentially violent situations the patron may cause or become embroiled in
  • Prevent the patron from acting inappropriately
  • Take the patron to a quiet, calm area and let them calm down and start to sober up
  • Eject the patron from the premises if necessary
  • Perform a citizen’s arrest (in extreme cases)

Of course, alcohol is a huge part of the night-time economy and not every venue staff is equipped to handle such situations comprehensively. Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that for every incident you hear of or witness that involves a person drinking to excess and suffering as a result, many more incidents were probably prevented by the intervention of trained security professionals.

Why One DS isn’t Enough

With the uncertainties of an economy ravaged by a mismanaged exit from the European Union and a global pandemic, many venues are struggling to simply remain open, much less turn a profit. As a cost-saving measure, venue owners and managers are increasingly posting only one DS on the door.

As much as we can sympathise with the predicament, we do not feel that single-person doors should be allowed. We feel strongly that understaffing security positions increases, rather than mitigates, the risk to both operatives and patrons.

A venue can play host to any number of people, typically between 20 and 200. It is quite honestly unreasonable to expect a solitary DS to perform (or be prepared to perform) any of the duties listed throughout this article by themselves, without any trained back-up.

A single operative is wholly responsible for, among other things:

  • Checking ID at the door
  • Checking suitability of patrons
  • Ensuring that entry fees have been paid (where applicable)
  • Keeping an eye out for troublemakers
  • Handling any potentially volatile situations
  • Being generally vigilant (watching for signs of trouble, violence, medical emergencies, patrons drinking excessively, etc)
  • Monitoring the inside of the venue (including toilets and outdoor areas)
  • Ejecting unruly or difficult patrons

This is simply too much to put on one operative. Even the best, most experienced DS would struggle to perform all these tasks unaccompanied.

It is inevitable, then, that some of these things will go unnoticed. For example, a situation that could easily be de-escalated may reach a crisis point without the intervention of a DS, at which point, people could be seriously hurt. Not only that, but instances of sexual assault, underage drinking, or serious drug use may occur and go completely unnoticed by a DS who is stretched too thinly. These are just some of the many complications that can occur when a venue tries to operate with an insufficient number of security operatives.

Ultimately, a single-operative setup represents a false economy. It saves money over the short term, but the costs of neglecting safety can be astronomical in the long run. Injuries can result in patrons taking legal action against the venue, while too many incidents of violence or the regular, unchallenged presence of contraband can see a venue forcibly closed.

Single operative setups also force venue staff into difficult positions. A security operative is trained to deal with abusive or difficult patrons and most patrons will take at least half a step back when confronted by a security operative in a security vest, body camera and protective gear.

A DS is trained to handle difficult patrons and challenging situations. Bar staff, management, or other venue staff, by comparison, are not comprehensively trained to handle such situations. This greatly increases the chance of violence erupting, or accidents occurring, something which can have dire consequences indeed.

We cannot condone any action that significantly increases the risks already faced by Britain’s security workers. Single-operative setups are one such action. It is unfair and unsafe – and, in our view, it needs to be stopped.

Door Supervisors & Police: A Promising Partnership

One of the saddest developments in recent years is the drastic reduction in UK police numbers. This has had a profound effect on the security industry. Fewer police on British streets have forced security operatives into new and unfamiliar positions. Some firms have adopted roles similar to community support officers, while most other operatives have found their traditional duties expanded considerably.

Ultimately, a diminished police presence means that the opportunities for criminals have increased. Often, security operatives are all that stands against violent crime, theft, or vandalism as it occurs. By the time police are notified of the situation, the situation itself is usually over.

The relationship between SIA licenced door supervisors and police is generally a harmonious one, though it can be sometimes strained. A common complaint among door supervisors is that police are rather scarce and take too long to arrive at the venue when called, while police have, at times, objected to what they see as security operatives trying to do their jobs for them.

In 2020, we conducted an in-depth study into the relationship that door supervisors have with police. Our study found that almost half of our 250 respondents said that their relationship with police only extended to simple pleasantries.

However, more positively, 16% told us that they had a closer working relationship with their local police officers, being on ‘first name terms’ with them. Damningly, 11% told us that they had no relationship with police whatsoever.

A recurring complaint, shared by around 24% of our respondents, was that they seldom saw the same officers regularly and that, as such, it was difficult to build up a rapport, or improve the relationship, something that 65% of our respondents had actively tried to do, seeing it as an important part of their jobs.

A majority (over 60%) said that police made no attempts to cultivate a relationship with them, but almost 40% had had the opposite experience, with police valuing their presence, input, and contributions and being keen to build a working relationship.

Security workers are not police and should not try to be. However, the two professions do overlap in certain key areas. With particularly short-sighted government cuts to funding making police officers a rarer site on British streets, security operatives are often the first on the scene, making them more important than ever to the safety of the British public.

We feel that a good working relationship with police is essential. One key benefit of having a good, experienced security team working your venue is that they will try wherever possible, to build a rapport with police.

A DS who is trusted and respected by local police can be a major benefit to a venue for a great many reasons, including the deterrent factor that can help to keep your venue one of the safest in the area.

In Summary

A good team of security operatives working your venue is worth its weight in gold. Security operatives regularly rise above and beyond the call of duty and are ever present to assist both patrons and staff in a wide variety of ways and across a multitude of potential scenarios.

Were they simply protectors of the public, or a legal requirement, that would be reason enough to hire security operatives, but good door supervisors are so much more, even than that. They are a pathway to increased security and greater profits, a better clientele, and a friendlier environment. Security operatives are good for business, good for branding, good for customers and good for you and here at ‘Working the Doors’, we are proud to represent them.