Live Issue Security: No accreditation - no entry

The government believes new laws governing door supervisors, security staff and others in the industry are a good thing, but there are concerns that they will mean hiked costs and less manpower. Mike Fletcher reports.

From 11 April, door supervisors at licensed premises in England and Wales must now have obtained a Security Industry Authority (SIA) certificate.

Those working without a permit risk prosecution under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and jeopardise their eligibility to receive a licence in the future. Venues or organisers found to be employing unlicensed contracted door supervisors put their premises' licence at risk and may face up to five years in prison as police crack down on anyone flouting the latest legislation about to impact on the exhibition and events industry.

Security at events, to prevent an act of terrorism or a major incident, has been a key talking point amongst industry trade associations, organisers and venues in recent years. Yet according to The Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO), the subject with the greatest potential ramifications, both in terms of manpower and cost, is now something much less high profile.

The continued licensing of all security personnel, according to national standards, is being enforced by the SIA, a quango answerable to the Home Office. And across the broad spectrum of the events industry, companies have struggled to comprehend both the current and proposed requirements of the act, let alone form strategies to enable smooth implementation of legislation for door supervisors and, soon, the guarding of non-licensed premises.

Crowd management firm Showsec fully endorses the objectives of the SIA to achieve a national standard of security and remove any criminal involvement.

Yet managing director Mark Harding admits that the plethora of emerging policies and the limited information made available by the SIA has made it difficult for Showsec to fully address the act's inception.

Harding says: "The SIA's central function over the past year has been to implement the first tranche of the programme, door licenses. The implementation, which was followed up by enforcement, was focused on city centre pubs and clubs with a central database developed of all licensed people working in the security industry who have been vetted against criminal records and training. Now the SIA's remit has broadened, and security at music festivals, events and exhibitions falls under the definitions of the new stages.

"It has been a complicated journey, as the requirement for licensed staff at festivals and concerts will be determined by the function which they carry out. What is clear is that all events that serve alcohol will require some staff to be SIA licensed but the final breakdown varies according to each independent risk assessment and the interpretation of that by the SIA," Harding says.

Venues serving alcohol are licensed under the 1964 Licensing Act and anyone performing a security function on licensed premises requires the current SIA door supervisor licence. But from 29 August, contracted staff working at events or premises with additional types of licences will also require a door supervisor licence. These include occasional licences, within the meaning of the Licensing Act 1964, licences under the Private Places of Entertainment Licensing Act 1967, licences under the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1982, licences under the London Government Act 1963 and licences of a prescribed description under any prescribed local statutory provision.

In other words, it is no longer the traditional door supervisor definitions that will require licensed status. Security contractors, agency workers, people who manage or supervise security operatives supplied under contract, agency-supplied managers or supervisors, vehicle immobilisers and their employers, managers and supervisors will all fall under the new remit for door supervisor certification and must be trained and accredited accordingly.

And from 20 March 2006, licensing for security guard definitions will come into effect across England and Wales, which will also make it illegal to work as a contracted security guard without the appropriate SIA licence.

Security Industry Training Organisation regional training services manager Bob Doyle says: "Venue in-house security staff not employed under contract remains the only job function not affected by the regulations but even that is likely to change in the future."

The definition of guarding includes looking after the premises against unauthorised access or occupation, outbreaks of disorder or damage, guarding the property against destruction, damage or theft or guarding one of more individuals against assault or injury.

For suppliers such as Showsec, which contracts out both door supervisors and stewards, the extended licensing requirements have already impacted greatly.

"We've built up a department so that we now have almost 20 qualified trainers. We've trained 800 stewards in the NCFE intermediate certificate in event stewarding qualification and a further 400 employees that are defined as door supervisors, passing the NCFE and BIIAB qualifications required to gain SIA license," Harding says.

The AEO - along with its sister companies that represent contractors and venues, whose members all employ the services of crowd management companies such as Showsec - believe that the investment needed to train contract staff will raise the cost of security across the industry. It may also result in a scarcity of manpower. Showsec agrees.

External training organisations charge between £150 and £350 for courses and exams. The licence application fee is £190 for a three-year licence but operatives needing more than one licence will receive a 50% discount on the second and subsequent applications.

John Sanders, project director at the Association of Exhibition Contractors, says: "There remains a concern for the licence training syllabus, which still doesn't fully reflect the roles undertaken by security staff at exhibitions and events. The door supervision licence is particularly not applicable to the job that event security staff undertake, although admittedly the training for the new security licence is somewhat closer to what we want and need. However, it is still not perfect."

The next step for the SIA is to develop an Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) whose implementation will begin early next year.

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 requires the SIA to establish a "system of inspection for providers of security services, under which those organisations who satisfactorily meet the agreed standards may be registered as approved, and may advertise themselves as such".

This will be a voluntary initiative that aims to raise performance standards and develop new opportunities in the private security industry.

An SIA spokesman says: "A voluntary scheme allows for guidance and facilitation, rather than a mandatory scheme that would dictate commercial practice.

We believe that companies must be free to innovate and pursue their own commercial vision, which is consistent with the philosophy of effective accreditation. A voluntary scheme allows the SIA to set fees more flexibly.

"No final decisions have been reached at this stage on financial cost.

There will be further consultation including a regulatory impact assessment on the setting of fees.

"The SIA's aim is to develop a scheme and fee structure that operates fairly across the different sizes and types of businesses providing security services, and as far as possible to avoid excluding firms from the scheme on cost grounds alone."

One of the benefits for a company gaining ACS accredited status is likely to be that their staff can work while their licence application is being processed, provided they have successfully completed the approved training.

Having a high proportion of a company's existing staff already licensed is expected to be one of the key criteria for eligibility.

Accreditation to the ACS will be granted once an assessment has been completed to determine that the required standards have been satisfactorily reached.

Companies that achieve ACS status will be able to use the Approved Contractor logo in their promotional material to reap the benefits of accreditation.

All Approved Contractors will be re-assessed regularly to ensure that the required standards have been maintained.

Sanders says: "This scheme will mean that, in addition to individuals being accredited and registered, the companies that employ them will also go through the same process.

"Anyone involved in health and safety will be familiar with the approved supplier concept, which works well when used to ensure competence.

"As we know, the individual employees are only as good as the company that employs them, therefore a system that audits not only the individual but the company they work for as well must be a positive step.

"Overall, however, we perceive an increased cost for limited benefit from the SIA legislation, which continues to need addressing."

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