Prepare your business to re-open during Covid-19: security to enhance workplace safety

9 Min Read |
Man sets up open sign in business window

 ‘Stay Alert’ is the new message from the Prime Minister, as he announced initial plans to slowly bring England out of lockdown, with an initial focus on construction and manufacturing businesses reopening.    

Prepare your business to re-open during Covid-19: security to enhance workplace safety

How can security help improve safety in the workplace?

 ‘Stay Alert’ is the new message from the Prime Minister, as he announced initial plans to slowly bring England out of lockdown, with an initial focus on construction and manufacturing businesses reopening.     


In this blog we will cover:

  • How to work safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)?
  • Technology readiness for re-opening
  • How can I effectively stay on top of queue control?
  • Can thermal cameras assist with staff safety and building control?
  • How do I restrict access levels on site?
  • What are the advantages of facial recognition?
  • How do you maintain hygiene in the workplace?
  • How do I maintain the highest level of security while working remotely?
  • How can my business stay safe and stay alert?
Gloved hands cleaning elevator buttons

How to work safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A series of ‘Working Safely during COVID-19’ guidance booklets  have been issued on key sectors which provide advice on how to work safely during the ongoing pandemic.  Clearly all businesses differ, so a COVID-19 risk assessment – referring back to the relevant guidance booklet - must be undertaken, similar to a health and safety risk assessment. 

Some COVID-19 risks are easily addressed, such as hygiene through increased hand washing and surface cleaning; others less so and may require a more fundamental change in business processes. 

Woman enters lobby through glass door

Technology readiness for re-opening

Technology is not a panacea here, but technology can be used to assist in making your business safer, including technology that is normally used for another valuable function: security.

Electronic security is prevalent throughout business premises, most frequently used to deter crime and keep people out of places they shouldn’t be.  The most common systems employed include access controlintruder detection and video surveillance (CCTV).  These systems are often multi-functional and may be leveraged to reinforce COVID-19 workplace policies and mitigate health, safety and security risks; from enhancing access control systems and updating visitor management or time and attendance software to investing in alarm verification monitoring and human temperature detection devices.

How can I effectively stay on top of queue control?

If your business has a large number of employees, then you will need to see if it is feasible to provide multiple access points and, consider staggering staff arrival and departure times, to reduce crowding; this will help you manage queue control and help you maintain  2m social distancing wherever possible. A one-way flow process (i.e. separate entrance/exits) may also be beneficial..

The simplest option is to have two metre markings on the floor outside of the entrance(s), but this should be monitored to maintain the 2m social distancing wherever possible.  Manned guarding (security guards) is an option, but it’s expensive and adds to the number of people in the area, which ultimately you are aiming to reduce. 

CCTV Video analytics enables you to go one step further, by identifying when people are congregating in too small an area.  Crowd video analytics focuses on specific areas, providing an estimation of the number of people present in a given area.  The system can generate an alert if the occupancy of an area exceeds a specified threshold.  An operative can then communicate with those people advising them to 2m social distancing requirements or even to move out of the area altogether.

The  alternative is to monitor the queue through CCTV analytical software  and combine it with an Audio Talk-down service, where operatives at a remote Monitoring Centre can issue a live alert.  Many CCTV cameras already have two way audio so you may find you can use your existing external security cameras for this purpose.

Thermal camera scans room

Can thermal cameras assist with staff safety and building control?

There has been much talk of using thermal cameras to help identify people with COVID-19.  Thermal cameras can have a role to play but, it’s important to note that they are not medical devices and cannot diagnose COVID 19 or any other medical disease or virus.  Where they can be effectively used, however, is to identify and alert users to someone who has an elevated temperature.  This could be for a number of reasons, so you must put in place a well-defined protocol for dealing with a potentially unwell person, which may include refusing entry.  It should be remembered that COVID-19 symptoms do not immediately show (the incubation period is relatively lengthy) and many people do not present with an elevated temperature, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you have thermal cameras in place; they are just another chink in the armour, but it’s not a full suit!  

How do I restrict access levels on site?

For staff who should be self-isolating, it’s essential they do not come into the workplace.  An electronic access control system is the obvious solution here, but ensure it’s one that’s easy to manage.  You need to be able to instantly but temporarily remove access rights to an individual as soon as you have been informed of their health status.  A cloud-based system may be the best option for you as this can be done securely from afar. 

The new guidance provides recommendations for managing contacts, including limiting visitor times to a specific time window, restricting access to required visitors only and keeping a record of visitors.  An access control system can readily achieve all of this with minimum fuss.

What are the advantages of facial recognition?

The less people touch things in the workplace, the better. The new guidance  specifies that you should be ‘providing alternatives to touch-based security devices such as keypads” .  When it comes to access control systems, proximity systems that enable users to present a card or tag at a reader, without needing to touch that reader, are an ideal, well-established alternative.  These are relatively inexpensive in terms of capital outlay, but they do come with the ongoing cost of issuing and managing tags/cards.  To avoid that you could look at a biometric based system instead, such as readers that feature iris recognition.  Whilst these involve a larger capital outlay, the ongoing costs are minimal.

Access control readers can be removed altogether from the equation if you instead opt for Facial Recognition through a CCTV system.  Facial Recognition relies on matching a live facial image from a camera to a database that holds a biometric ‘map’ of each individual authorised to be on that site, using Artificial Intelligence. 

Facial recognition benefits include: 

  • Employees can enter and exit areas of sites without ever touching devices or doors
  • Cameras located at strategic points around a site remove the need for access control and Time and Attendance readers
  • Improved security - there are no cards/fobs to pass on to someone else or lose.
CCTV camera recognizes man's face

How do you maintain hygiene in the workplace?

In many instances, access control and facial recognition systems can be integrated with other on-site equipment to help reduce the number of people touching equipment.  In offices, this could be printers or scanners.  In manufacturing sites, it could be specific pieces of machinery, which also addresses the more traditional health and safety concerns.

Hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and to reduce the spread of the virus. You could also look to link your access control system to automatic hand sanitiser dispensers. Mounting an automatic hand sanitiser dispenser within the entrances to your premises is a sensible approach.  If you combine this with access control, then people cannot gain access into your building or past reception, if they haven’t sanitised their hands.  Equipment already exists for use in high risk areas, where a very strict hygiene level is required.  These systems require both hands to be placed within the sanitation machine and only when the sanitation is completed will the door open.

How do I maintain the highest level of security while working remotely?

With the aim being for the minimum number of people to work on site, businesses should consider the safety, security and peace of mind of those that are. Here, remote monitoring services may be advisable. Video Safeguard, for example, uses CCTV monitoring with the latest video analytics to monitor employees who are working either alone or in high risk/high security locations from our Monitoring Centre and react to any issues immediately.  There’s also the STANLEY Guard personal alarm safety system in smartphone app format. 

For a comprehensive remote solution, all your on-site security – intercoms, access control and CCTV – can be used to take over the duties of some, if not all, manned guards on site.  Monitoring Centre operatives have full control over the security systems and can activate/deactivate alarms, alert the emergency services, direct people or vehicles to specific areas. It’s an around the clock service, plus comes at a far lower cost than employing a team of security guards on site. This solution could also help to monitor the new drop off points or transfer zones that have been recommended, to prevent people passing things directly to each other. 

Wood with "Stay alert" written on it

Stay safe and stay alert  

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a short-term crisis. To ensure the safety of all those on your premises it’s vital you review your health and safety procedures and take a long term approach.  Employing appropriate technology now to help you manage the pandemic is an investment in your company’s future. 

With the right security partner, access controlintruder detectionvideo surveillance (CCTV) and Remote Security management will enable you to secure your organisation’s premises, assets and people anywhere and at any time.

Taking half measures isn’t the sensible approach and could even see you fall fowl of HSE which is able to issue risk enforcement notices, not to mention the damage this could to your brand reputation.  As the ‘Working Safely during COVID-19’ guidance booklets states: “No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment”.

So, stay safe and Stay Alert; it may be the new message for the country, but it’s one that’s always been at the heart of security.

If you have any questions or would like to implement any of the above technologies into your workplace, please get in touch.