Kevin Ian Schmidt

OSHA Fire Extinguisher Guidelines

Where extinguishers are provided but are not intended for employee use and the employer has an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of [29 CFR 1910.38], then only the requirements of the inspection, maintenance and testing and hydrostatic testing sections apply. [29 CFR 1910.157(a)]


As the owner of the business, you must:

  • Provide portable fire extinguishers and mount, locate, and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(1)Fire Extinguisher Placement
  • Use only approved portable fire extinguishers. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(2)Type of fire extinguishers
  • Do not use portable fire extinguishers that use carbon tetrachloride or chlorobromomethane extinguishing agents. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(3)]
  • Assure that portable fire extinguishers are maintained, fully charged, operating properly, and kept in designated places at all times except during use. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(4)How to inspect a fire extinguisher
  • Remove from service all soldered or riveted shell self-generating soda acid or self-generating foam or gas cartridge water type portable fire extinguishers that are operated by inverting the extinguisher to rupture the cartridge or to initiate an uncontrollable pressure generating chemical reaction to expel the agent. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(5)]
Check Out: Fire Extinguisher Inspections

The following exemptions apply:

  • Where the employer has established and implemented a written fire safety policy which requires the immediate and total evacuation of employees from the workplace upon the sounding of a fire alarm signal and which includes an emergency action plan and a fire prevention plan that meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.38 and 29 CFR 1910.39 respectively, and when extinguishers are not available in the workplace, the employer is exempt from all requirements of this section unless a specific standard in Part 1910 requires that a portable fire extinguisher be provided. [29 CFR 1910.157(b)(1)]
  • Where the employer has an emergency action plan meeting the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.38, which designates certain employees to be the only employees authorized to use the available portable fire extinguishers, and which requires all other employees in the fire area to immediately evacuate the affected work area upon the sounding of the fire alarm, the employer is exempt from the distribution requirements in the selection and distribution section. [29 CFR 1910.157(b)(2)]


Learn more about fire extinguisher selection and placement

An employer must:

  • Provide portable fire extinguishers for employee use. Select and distribute the extinguishers based on the types of anticipated workplace fires and on the size and degree of hazard that would affect their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(1)]
  • fire-extinguisher-signageDistribute portable extinguishers for use on Class A fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 meters) or less. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(2)]
  • Use uniformly spaced standpipe systems or hose stations connected to a sprinkler system installed for emergency use by employees, instead of Class A portable fire extinguishers, provided that such systems meet the respective requirements of 29 CFR 1910.158 or 29 CFR 1910.159, that they provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and that employees are trained at least annually in their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(3)]
  • Distribute portable fire extinguishers for use on Class B fires so that the travel distance for employees to any extinguisher is 50 feet (15.2 meters) or less. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(4)]
  • Distribute portable fire extinguishers for use on Class C hazards on the appropriate pattern for the existing Class A or Class B hazards. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(5)]
  • Distribute portable fire extinguishers or other containers of Class D extinguishing agent for employee use so that the travel distance from the combustible metal working area to any  extinguisher is 75 feet (22.9 meters) or less. Portable fire extinguishers for Class D hazards are required in areas where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized products are generated at least once every two weeks. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(6)]




As a small business owner, you MUST:

  • fire-extinguisher-signInspect, maintain, and test all portable fire extinguishers in the workplace. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(1)]
  • Visually inspect portable extinguishers or hoses monthly. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(2)]
  • Perform an annual maintenance check on portable fire extinguishers. Stored pressure extinguishers do not require an internal examination. Record the annual maintenance date and retain this record for one year after the last entry or the life of the shell, whichever is less. Make the record available to the Assistant Secretary upon request. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(3)]
  • Empty and maintain dry chemical extinguishers (that require a 12-year hydrostatic test) every six years. Dry chemical extinguishers that have non-refillable disposable containers are exempt from this requirement. When recharging or hydrostatic testing is performed, the six-year requirement begins from that date. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(4)]
  • Provide alternate equivalent protection when portable fire extinguishers are removed from service for maintenance and recharging. [29 CFR 1910.157(e)(5)]


A small business must:

  • Assure that hydrostatic testing is performed by trained persons with suitable testing equipment and facilities. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(1)]
  • Assure that portable extinguishers are hydrostatically tested at the intervals listed in Table L-1 of this section, except under any of the following conditions [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(2)]:
  • Assure that an internal examination of cylinders and shells to be tested is made before the hydrostatic tests in addition to an external visual examination. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(3)]
Table L-1
Type of extinguishers Test interval (years)
Soda acid (soldered brass shells) (until 1/1/82) *
* Soda acid (stainless steel shell) 5
* Cartridge operated water and/or antifreeze 5
Stored pressure water and/or antifreeze 5
Wetting agent 5
Foam (soldered brass shells) (until 1/1/82) *
Foam (stainless steel shell) 5
Aqueous Film Forming foam (AFFF) 5
Loaded stream 5
Dry chemical with stainless steel 5
Carbon Dioxide 5
Dry chemical, stored pressure, with mild steel, brazed brass or aluminum shells 12
Dry chemical, cartridge or cylinder operated, with mild steel shells 12
Halon 1211 12
Halon 1301 12
Dry powder, cartridge or cylinder operated with mild steel shells 12
FOOTNOTE: Extinguishers having shells constructed of copper or brass joined by soft solder or rivets shall not be hydrostatically tested and shall be removed from service by January 1, 1982. (Not permitted)

* Although still included in Table L-1, Soda acid (stainless steel shell) and Cartridge operated water and/or antifreeze extinguishers are now obsolete. [29 CFR 1910.157]

  • Assure that portable fire extinguishers are hydrostatically tested whenever they show new evidence of corrosion or mechanical injury, except under the conditions listed in paragraphs (f)(2)(i)(v) of this section. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(4)]
  • Assure that hydrostatic tests are performed on extinguisher hose assemblies that are equipped with a shut-off nozzle at the discharge end of the hose. The test interval must be the same as specified for the extinguisher. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(5)]
  • Hydrostatically test carbon dioxide hose assemblies with a shut-off nozzle at 1,250 psi (8,620 kPa). [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(6)]
  • Hydrostatically test dry chemical and dry powder hose assemblies with a shut-off nozzle at 300 psi (2,070 kPa). [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(7)] Hose assemblies passing a hydrostatic test do not require any type of recording or stamping. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(8)]
  • Test hose assemblies for carbon dioxide extinguishers within a protective cage device. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(9)]
  • Test carbon dioxide extinguishers and nitrogen or carbon dioxide cylinders used with wheeled extinguishers every five years at 5/3 of the service pressure as stamped into the cylinder. Nitrogen cylinders that comply with 49 CFR 173.34(e)(15) may be hydrostatically tested every 10 years. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(10)]
  • Hydrostatically test stored pressure and Halon 1211 types of extinguishers at the factory test pressure, not to exceed two times the service pressure. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(11)]
  • Test self-generating type soda acid and foam extinguishers at 350 psi (2,410 kPa). [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(12)]
  • Do not use air or gas pressure for hydrostatic testing. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(13)]
  • Remove from service extinguisher shells, cylinders, or cartridges that fail a hydrostatic pressure test, or that are not fit for testing. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(14)]
  • Ensure that the equipment for testing compressed gas type cylinders be of the water jacket type. The equipment must have an expansion indicator that operates with an accuracy within 1 percent of the total expansion or .1cc (.1mL) of liquid. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(i)]
  • Ensure that the equipment for testing non-compressed gas type cylinders includes the following [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)]:
    • A hydrostatic test pump, hand or power operated, capable of producing at least 150 percent of the test pressure, which must include appropriate check valves and fittings. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)(A)]
    • A flexible connection for attachment to fittings to test through the extinguisher nozzle, test bonnet, or hose outlet, as is applicable. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)(B)]
    • A protective cage or barrier for personal protection of the tester, designed to provide visual observation of the extinguisher under test. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(15)(ii)(C)]
  • Maintain and provide upon request to the Assistant Secretary evidence that the required hydrostatic testing of fire extinguishers has been performed at the time intervals shown in Table L-1. Such evidence must be in the form of a certification record that includes:
    • The date of the test.
    • The signature of the person who performed the test.
    • The serial number, or other identifier, of the fire extinguisher that was tested.

Such records must be kept until the extinguisher is hydrostatically retested at the time interval specified in Table L-1 or until the extinguisher is taken out of service, whichever comes first. [29 CFR 1910.157(f)(16)]


For the employees of your business, you must:

  • Provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire fighting. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(1)] Provide this education when employees are first hired and once a year thereafter. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(2)]
  • Train employees (who have been designated to use fire fighting equipment in the emergency action plan) in the use of the equipment. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(3)] Provide this training when employees are first given this assignment and once a year thereafter. [29 CFR 1910.157(g)(4)]

Fire Extinguisher Inspections

Regular maintenance and inspections of your portable fire extinguishers will provide assurance that they will operate effectively and safely if they are needed. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(4)]

fire-extinguisher-properInspect all extinguishers at least once a month. Use the following checklist as a guide.

  1. Is each extinguisher in its designated place, clearly visible, and not blocked by equipment, coats or other objects that could interfere with access during an emergency?
  2. Is the nameplate with operating instructions legible and facing outward?
  3. Is the pressure gauge showing that the extinguisher is fully charged (the needle should be in the green zone)?
  4. Is the pin and tamper seal intact?
  5. Is the extinguisher in good condition and showing no signs of physical damage, corrosion, or leakage?
  6. Have all dry powder extinguishers been gently rocked top to bottom to make sure the powder is not packing?


NOTE: If you did not answer yes to all of these questions, have the extinguisher fixed or replaced immediately!

If you want to learn more about Fire Extinguishers, check out OSHA’s full guidelines on fire extinguishers.

The following photos are of fire extinguishers out of compliance, do you have any in your workplace like the following?

Missing seal
Missing seal
This fire extinguisher is in violation by sitting on the ground.
This fire extinguisher is in violation by sitting on the ground.
Can you identify what is wrong here?
Can you identify what is wrong here?

Fire Extinguishers: Placement and Selection

To avoid putting workers in danger, fire extinguishers should be located throughout the workplace and readily accessible in the event of a fire. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)] You can usually find them in hallways, laundry rooms, meeting rooms, kitchens, mechanical/electrical rooms, and near exit doors.

Selection and Placement of Fire Extinguishers

If employees use portable fire extinguishers, they must be selected and positioned based on the potential type and size of fire that can occur. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(1)] The following guidelines will help you identify the number and types of portable fire extinguishers you should have.

Type of Fire

Size and Spacing

Class A The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that locations such as offices, classrooms, and assembly halls that contain mainly Class A combustible materials have one 2-A extinguisher for every 3,000 square feet. [Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers (NFPA 10 (2010), Table, Fire Extinguisher Size and Placement for Class A Hazards)].

OSHA requires that all employees have access to an extinguisher within 75 feet travel-distance. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(2)]

NOTE: Uniformly spaced standpipe systems or hose stations connected to a sprinkler system for emergency use can be used instead of Class A portable fire extinguishers, if they meet the respective requirements of 29 CFR 1910.158 or 29 CFR 1910.159, provide total coverage of the area to be protected, and employees are trained at least annually in their use. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(3)]

Class B Locations that contain Class B flammables, such as workshops, storage areas, research operations, garages, warehouses, or service and manufacturing areas requires that all employees have access to an extinguisher within 50 feet travel-distance. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(4)]




Light (Low) – Small amounts of flammable liquids used for copy machines, art departments, etc., that are stored safely and kept in closed containers.





Ordinary (Moderate) – The total amount of flammable liquids are present in greater amounts than expected under low-hazard locations. This can include garages, workshops, or support service areas.





Extra (High) – Locations where flammable liquids are present and used in large quantities. This includes areas used for storage, production, woodworking (finishing), vehicle repair, aircraft and boat servicing, or where painting, dipping, and coating, operations are performed with flammable liquids.





(Adapted from Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, NFPA 10 (2010), Table, Fire Extinguisher Size and Placement for Class B Hazards)
Class C Class C extinguishers are required where energized electrical equipment is used. The extinguisher size and spacing is based on its Class A or B hazard. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(5)]
Class D Locations where combustible metal powders, flakes, shavings, or similarly sized materials are generated at least once every two weeks must install Class D portable fire extinguishers not more then 75 feet from the hazard. [29 CFR 1910.157(d)(6)]
Class K Locations where potential fire hazards from combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats) exist must install Class K extinguishers at a maximum travel distance of 30 feet. [NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. See Section 6.6, Installations for Class K Hazards]

Installation of Fire Extinguishers:

Up to 5' Bracket, 3.5'To prevent fire extinguishers from being moved or damaged, they should be mounted on brackets or in wall cabinets with the carrying handle placed 3-1/2 to 5 feet above the floor. Larger fire extinguishers need to be mounted at lower heights with the carrying handle about 3 feet from the floor.

Before installing any portable fire extinguisher, check the label to be sure it is approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(2)]

Read more about OSHA’s Fire Extinguisher Guidelines

Prohibited Fire Extinguishers:

The following types of portable fire extinguishers are considered dangerous and should NEVER be used:

Old Extinguisher having a shell construction of copper or brass

  1. Any extinguisher having a shell construction of copper or brass joined by soft solder and/or rivets.
  2. Any extinguisher that must be turned upside down to rupture a cartridge or to start an uncontrollable pressure generating chemical reaction to expel the agent. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(5)] This includes:
    • Soda acid
    • Foam
    • Water-cartridge
    • Loaded stream cartridge
  3. Extinguishers that use chlorobromomethane (Halon 1011) or carbon tetrachloride as an extinguishing agent. These agents are toxic and carbon tetrachloride may cause cancer and can produce phosgene gas (used as a chemical weapon during World War I) when used on electrical fires. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(3)]

Fire Extinguisher Basics

To understand how a fire extinguisher works, you need to understand a little about fire. Fire is a very rapid chemical reaction between oxygen and a combustible material, which results in the release of heat, light, flames, and smoke.

Fire Triangle

Heat, Oxygen, FuelFor fire to exist, the following four elements must be present at the same time:

  • Enough oxygen to sustain combustion.
  • Enough heat to raise the material to its ignition temperature.
  • Some sort of fuel or combustible material.
  • The chemical reaction that is fire.

How a Fire Extinguisher Works:

Portable fire extinguishers apply an extinguishing agent that will either cool burning fuel, displace or remove oxygen, or stop the chemical reaction so a fire cannot continue to burn. When the handle of an extinguisher is compressed, agent is expelled out the nozzle.

Fire extinguisher labels explained, Underwriter's Laboratories and the UL logo, listed, dry chemical fire extinguisher, classification 1-A:10-BCAll portable fire extinguishers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory Safety Pin, Nozzle, Handle, Pressure gauge, Tube, High Pressure Gas Canister, Dry Chemical, Carbon Dioxide, or Water to verify compliance with applicable standards. [29 CFR 1910.157(c)(2)] Equipment that passes the laboratory’s tests are labeled and given an alpha-numeric classification based on the type and size of fire it will extinguish.

Let’s take a look at the label pictured. The classification is:


The letters (A, B, and C) represent the type(s) of fire for which the extinguisher has been approved.

The number in front of the A rating indicates how much water the extinguisher is equal to and represents 1.25 gallons of water for every unit of one. For example, a 4-A rated extinguisher would be equal to five (4 x 1.25) gallons of water.

The number in front of the B rating represents the area in square feet of a class B fire that a non-expert user should be able to extinguish. Using the above example, a non-expert user should be able to put out a flammable liquid fire that is as large as 10 square feet.

Don’t forget to inspect your fire extinguishers, learn how to here.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Different types of fire extinguishers are designed to fight different types of fire. The three most common types of fire extinguishers are: air pressurized water, CO2 (carbon dioxide), and dry chemical. The following table provides information regarding the type of fire and which fire extinguisher should be used.

Extinguisher Type

Type of Fire

Water Extinguisher


Ordinary Combustibles

Fires in paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics require a water type extinguisher labeled A.

Class A Logo
Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher, fire extinguisher basics



Dry Chemical Extinguisher

Dry Chemical

Flammable Liquids

Fires in oils, gasoline, some paints, lacquers, grease, solvents, and other flammable liquids require an extinguisher labeled B.

Class B logo

Electrical Equipment

Fires in wiring, fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment, computers, and other electrical sources require an extinguisher labeled C.

Class C Logo

Extinguisher Type

Type of Fire

Multi-purpose Extinguisher


Ordinary Combustibles, Flammable Liquids, or Electrical Equipment

Multi-purpose dry chemical is suitable for use on class A, B, and C.

Class A, B, and C Logos

Class D


Fires involving powders, flakes or shavings of combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium require special extinguishers labeled D.

Class K

Kitchen Fires

Fires involving combustible cooking fluids such as oils and fats.

Class K Logo

NOTE: Your present fire extinguishing equipment may not put out a fire involving vegetable oil in your deep fat fryer.

Read OSHA’s Fire Extinguisher Guidelines here


Common Fire Extinguishers for small businesses

Water – Air-pressurized Water Extinguishers (APW)

Water Extinguisher

Water is one of the most commonly used extinguishing agents for type A fires. You can recognize an APW by its large silver container. They are filled about two-thirds of the way with ordinary water, then pressurized with air. In some cases, detergents are added to the water to produce a foam. They stand about two to three feet tall and weigh approximately 25 pounds when full.

APWs extinguish fire by cooling the surface of the fuel to remove the “heat” element of the fire triangle.

APWs are designed for Class A (wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and certain plastics) fires only.

Class A only Label


  • Never use water to extinguish flammable liquid fires. Water is extremely ineffective at extinguishing this type of fire and may make matters worse by the spreading the fire.
  • Never use water to extinguish an electrical fire. Water is a good conductor and may lead to electrocution if used to extinguish an electrical fire. Electrical equipment must be unplugged and/or de-energized before using a water extinguisher on an electrical fire.

CO2 or Dry Chemical – Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers

Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

This type of extinguisher is filled with Carbon Dioxide (CO2), a non-flammable gas under extreme pressure. These extinguishers put out fires by displacing oxygen, or taking away the oxygen element of the fire triangle. Because of its high pressure, when you use this extinguisher pieces of dry ice shoot from the horn, which also has a cooling effect on the fire.

You can recognize this type of extinguisher by its hard horn and absent pressure gauge.

CO2 cylinders are red and range in size from five to 100 pounds or larger.

CO2 extinguishers are designed for Class B and C (flammable liquid and electrical) fires only.

Class B and C Label


  • CO2 is not recommended for Class A fires because they may continue to smolder and re-ignite after the CO2 dissipates.
  • Never use CO2 extinguishers in a confined space while people are present without proper respiratory protection.


Carbon dioxide extinguishers will frequently be found in industrial vehicles, mechanical rooms, offices, computer labs, and flammable liquid storage areas.

Multi-purpose – Dry Chemical Extinguishers

Dry Chemical Extinguisher

Dry chemical extinguishers put out fires by coating the fuel with a thin layer of fire retardant powder, separating the fuel from the oxygen. The powder also works to interrupt the chemical reaction, which makes these extinguishers extremely effective.

Dry chemical extinguishers are usually rated for class B and C fires and may be marked multiple purpose for use in A, B, and C fires. They contain an extinguishing agent and use a compressed, non-flammable gas as a propellant.

ABC fire extinguishers are red in color, and range in size from five pounds to 20 pounds.

Dry Chemical extinguishers will have a label indicating they may be used on class A, B, and/or C fires.

Class A, B, or C Label or Class B or C only label


These extinguishers will be found in a variety of locations including: public hallways, laboratories, mechanical rooms, break rooms, chemical storage areas, offices, commercial vehicles, and other areas with flammable liquids.

To learn more about how to locate and place your fire extinguishers, check out this post


Corporate Volunteering Leads to Engaged Employees

Many companies have employee volunteer programs, but for many companies in Europe, Canada and the US these programs are underfunded, underdeveloped and underutilized. This article is meant to offer a compelling reason why your business needs to invest (a bit more) in employee volunteering. This is also a great opportunity to make people aware of your Security Company by having the employees wear t-shirts with your security company logo, as well as it makes people aware of your commitment to the local community.

Employee Engagement: The Direct Connection to Business Success

The evidence supporting the importance of employee engagement is incontrovertible. Beyond the reports and analysis, even common sense will tell you that an engaged workforce is important to a company’s well-being and profitability.

But let’s start with the bad news – According to a recent Scarlett Survey, on average, it’s safe to assume that at least 31% of your employees are disengaged. Worse yet, 4% of those who are disengaged are probably hostile. That means that they are speaking poorly of your company to all their friends and family and most likely stealing office supplies. (Seriously.)

On the other hand, according to Gallup, companies with high levels of employee engagement enjoy a significant uplift of every business performance number. Gallup performed a meta-analysis across 199 studies covering 152 organizations, 44 industries, and 26 countries. They discovered that for companies where employees were more engaged than not, their profitability jumped by 16%. Not only that, general productivity was 18% higher than other companies. Customer loyalty was 12% higher and quality jumped up by an incredible 60%. (Harvard Business Review)

corporate volunteeringBut What’s the Connection Between Employee Engagement and Volunteering?

First, it’s important to establish that there is, in fact, a connection. In Ireland, a recent study found that 87% of employees who volunteered with their companies reported an improved perception of their employer. More importantly, a whopping 82% felt more committed to the organization they worked for.

In another study conducted by Volunteer Match and United Healthcare entitled “Do Good Live Well Study Reviewing the Benefits of Volunteering”, researchers found that employees who volunteer through their workplace report more positive attitudes towards their employer as well as colleagues. An interesting benefit to employers is the improved physical and emotional health of employees who volunteer. That means that if companies want to decrease their health costs, they should be looking to volunteering as an affordable and accessible solution.

Check Out: Company Culture

Why is There a Connection Between Employee Engagement and Volunteering?

Specifically, employee volunteering programs increase engagement levels at work when it connects to an individual’s need for meaning and accomplishment. This was first demonstrated in 1968 when Frederick Herzberg article “One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?” was published. The article was so popular, that by 1987 it was the most requested article from the Harvard Business Review having sold 1.2 million reprints.

Frederick Herzberg, was a psychologist who suggested that, based on his data, what made people happy at work was not the same thing as what made people unhappy at work. What makes us unhappy at work is lousy pay, lousy work conditions (like your cubicle space or no windows), and a lousy boss. If you fix those it makes a better working condition but it actually won’t make you happy at work.

What makes you happy at work are things like achievement, recognition, more responsibility, the chance to advance, personal growth, etc. These concepts all have to do with personal fulfillment and our humanity. When a company takes time to formally offer an opportunity to get involved in community, what they’re doing is creating the right kind of space for people to express their personal interests and personal desires that go beyond what they’re doing as part of the company. And so it integrates their life inside that building, or that assembly line, or those sales calls with the rest of the world.

If you are more satisfied with who you are as a person, you simply do better in life. People with a purpose outperform those of us wandering around wondering what it all means. Companies that are able to connect people to passions and interests where they feel they’re making a significant contribution as a human being, will see a direct correlation to significant benefits. Assuming it’s true that employee engagement is increased through volunteering, the business benefit is crystal clear. Companies satisfied with low participation rates or only annual activities, are missing huge financial benefits.

Check Out: 7 Ways to Build Trust – The Vital Ingredient of Your Safety Culture

How Huge is Corporate Volunteering?

According to the 2008/2009 study, Driving Business Results Through Continuous Engagement by WorkUSA, companies with engaged employees experience 26% higher revenue per employee, 13% total higher total returns to shareholders, and a 50% higher market premium.

Think about it. What is your company’s earnings per employee? Microsoft’s is currently at $244,831 per employee. Increasing that number by 26% equals a $63,656.06 increase in revenue per employee. To ignore that potential would be bad business.

SO, you have read this article and now are thinking about what sort of employee volunteering activities your company could do. My best advice on that is to partner with a larger volunteer organization, like Habitat for Humanity, or a local soup kitchen. That way you have ample volunteer activities with minimal investment and get to provide a great service to the local community.

This is also a great time for basic brand recognition, by providing your employees with branded t-shirts with your security guard company’s logo, so people see you are committed to your local community.

Improve your Security Guard Services in 5 Steps

When companies secure security guard services, they have a picture in mind of what their contract security force should look like, but too often what they end up with is not what they wanted. What is often the case is that while the security guard company may have the capability to meet the expectations, what they are often lacking is proper corporate security management. A site security manager provided by the contract security company, will be in charge of managing the security guards to the contract standards, but they are accountable to the contract security company at the end of the day. Employing a corporate security manager, there will be someone who is looking out for the company’s interests, and managing security through ongoing quality control reviews, as well as keeping the physical security procedures up to date.

Security guard companies are different from any other vendor that a company usually employs. If you hire a painter, you can see whether or not they are doing their jobs by looking at the walls. But when you hire a security guard company, how often can you see whether the guard company is doing their job which includes running background checks and drug screenings, providing good training for the guards, and effectively monitoring and supervising the guards. In most instances they probably are, but it is important to implement a system of verification and quality control of physical security management. A solid base for monitoring security guard services is a ensuring you have essential security policies in place. When you have that accomplished, you next need to follow the following 5 steps to improve your security guard services.




How to Improve Your Security Guard Services in 5 steps

1) Screen Your Guards Qualifications

In many states, security guards are mandated to have a specified amount of training before they can begin working as security guards. If your state is one of these states, ensure that your security guard company is compliant, do not just accept their word, ask for copies of the certificates.

If you are in a state where there are no state requirements for guard certification, then investigate the type of training that is being provided by your security company and ask yourself does it seem adequate. Doing this step during the contract negotiation means, if you find the security guard training inadequate, you can ask for more training or find a company that provides the level of security you are seeking.

Additionally, is your security guard company performing background and drug screenings on all your guards BEFORE they send them to your property? If they are, they should be providing you with verification. If not, why?

2) Assess Guard Training

Although most security guard companies have a very thorough orientation that introduces each guard to their company, in many cases the guard’s orientation to his assigned property is not as complete. We call the orientation for the assigned property “Site Specific Training”. Find out what your site specific training looks like:

  • Does it occur at your property?
    • Who does the training?
    • How long is each new officer trained?
    • How long does the security company double bank? (Double banking is the process of having a veteran guard working at the same time as the new guard.)
    • How thoroughly are your post orders explained?

Corporate security management would be the ideal position to conduct this “Site Specific Training”, as they know the physical security procedures of the site, as well as the security policy.

Unsure of how to assess your guard training? Check out this post on Security Company Resource Center to help you better understand it.

3) Review Your Guard’s Supervision

Improve security guard services
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Guard supervision is one of the more important factors of good security guard service. When security companies provide poor supervision, there is not enough emphasis placed on preventing mistakes, problems, and complaints. Lack of supervision also removes the opportunity for the guard to learn and better understand their duties. If the guards are not being supervised, they begin to feel that their work is not important and they begin to see themselves as less of a part of the security team. When guards do not feel like part of your team it typically leads to unacceptable practices such as unprofessional behavior, tardiness, and even theft.

Depending on the structure of your contract, on-site supervisors may not be included. If your contract does not require on-site supervision, how does your security guard company remotely supervise its guards? Outside of the normal security company field supervisor spot checks, the two methods of remote supervision that prove most successful are:

  1. Officer Tour Tracking Systems
  2. Officer Check-Ins

If your guards are required to make rounds of your property, then a system for tracking them while on duty is essential. This can be accomplished with a physical security checklist, whether on paper or done electronically.

4) Inspect Your Guards

After hours inspections of your guards are always great ways of finding out exactly what is happening with your security while you are not there. During these inspections, make sure to ask your security guards questions about their duties and responsibilities to ensure that they understand their jobs. In fact, we suggest having your security guards audited regularly, formally (i.e. post inspection) and informally (i.e. secret shopped) by a licensed security consultant as part of your ongoing security program.

5) Meet with your Security Guard Company Regularly

The fifth and easiest step is to regularly meet with your security company. Without providing regular feedback to your security guard company, property managers are missing out on opportunities to achieve incremental increases in efficiency. Topics such as tenant feedback, guard attrition, feedback from any remote supervisory systems, and any security audits should be discussed during these meetings.

Make sure your security policies are set up correctly.

For a professional corporate security manager, these 5 tips should seem commonplace, but many companies overlook them, and just keep switching contract security companies, hoping the next company, will provide solid security management.

Security Consultant, know what to ask when hiring

security consultantEmploying the services of an independent security consultant possesses several advantages: an unbiased point of view; a fresh viewpoint on old issues; as well as innovative views and solutions produced from an extensive record of experiences.


However, just like any significant security and safety decision, its best to conduct extensive research as well as to make inquiries beforehand. At first glance, using the services of a security and safety consultant for institutions and businesses to develop your current security plans and methods while reducing your security threats and vulnerabilities may look like a somewhat simple decision process for a business. However basic this project may look like, consideration needs to be shown when selecting a security and safety consultant.


These questions are important to ask, once you have decided to hire a security consultant. Check out this post to decide if you need the services of an independent security consultant.


Check out the Guidelines for hiring a security consultant

Listed below are some fundamental questions that we recommend for you to ask about your business and regarding the security consultant you plan to seek the services of:

  1. Is my organization really willing to make changes?
    Your security consultant may ultimately recommend some significant changes in equipment, personnel, or procedures. Do you have commitment from your executive and/or lay leadership to spend the time and money needed to make changes? Will they back you up long term, especially when difficulties arise, such as employee resistance to change or challenges from shareholders? Will they follow-through?
  2. Does this consultant know my industry and particularly the needs of my community?
    Analyzing threats for your particular organization or institution may be very different from evaluating dangers at other facilities and organizations. For example, violent, often deadly attacks are being perpetuated against the Jewish community, including children. The dangers posed to synagogues and other Jewish institutions are a matter of record. Therefore, while there may be some common issues with many religious institutions, there are enough significant differences that specialized experience and knowledge are crucial, particularly knowledge of anti-terrorism vs. crime prevention as well as an understanding of the special concerns of the Jewish community.
  3. Are there competing or conflicting interests at work?
    Some consultants are truly independent, representing neither a particular company nor a particular technology solution. Others, however, may be using their consulting services as a door opener to sell particular products and services you may or may not need but for which a consultant may collect commissions or other fees.
  4. Will you be independent or dependent when the project ends, meaning with the assessment process include justification and rationale for the recommended security changes?
    The ideal consultant will not only help you solve the current problem but also equip you with skills and knowledge to begin to tackle the next one. You may not be able to solve all future problems on your own, but you should know enough to begin preparing ideas.
  5. Will the consultant’s services include training seminars, materials, or other extras to use with the staff?
    No doubt you’ll need to educate others within your organization about your new security procedures and changes. The consultant should have the skills and abilities to conduct implementation and follow-on training as required.
  6. How comprehensive is the consultant’s knowledge and approach?
    In some cases, you’re hiring a consultant to solve a specific problem. Using a consultant that has a broader perspective, however, means possibly identifying and solving problems you may not have considered before.
  7. Who’s on the case?
    You might have a highly experienced, senior consultant make the pitch to get your business. But will you ever see that expert again after you’ve signed on the dotted line or will your job be relegated to junior staff? Make sure you get the experience you pay for.
  8. What are the steps in the evaluation, planning, and implementation process the consultant will use?
    Is it a cookie-cutter approach or are the consultant’s methodologies customized to your organization? For example, some security consultants use a cookbook checklist originally designed for another application, which is now relegated to being a catchall assessment used for every facility.
  9. How does the security consultant meet reporting requirements?
    Make sure that you discuss exactly what it is you require from the consultant as a reporting deliverable (or series of deliverables) for your security assessment. For example, do you want the consultant to deliver the final report in a written form that may be discoverable through the Freedom of Information Act? Or would your requirements be better served by having the consultant give you an oral presentation of your vulnerabilities? Make sure these requirements are settled at the start of the project.
  10. Can the security consultant offer advice on implementation and training?
    To ensure consistency in the transition from mediation recommendations to security systems implementation, it is best to ensure that your security consultant will be able to provide technical training for new security policies, procedures, and systems implemented as a result of your facility risk and vulnerability assessment. After you’ve gone through this “deceptively simple, yet endlessly complicated” process – from hiring a competent security contractor to implementing the contractor’s recommendations – the most important question remaining is, when do I start this process all over again? As your security consultant can tell you, the answer to that question is right away.



OSHA Training, preparing for a visit

OSHA cannot perform warrantless inspections without the employer’s permission. Refer to Marshall v. Barlow, 436 U. S. 307 (1978). A warrant is not necessary if OSHA obtains employer permission, any time premises are in view to the public, or even when there exists “imminent danger.”

In the event that the OSHA compliance officer shows up at the job site without a search warrant, the employer is allowed to refuse access to the work site in so doing postponing the inspection process. Acquiring the warrant typically will take a few days. Having said that, it has been often thought that employers who demand OSHA to undertake this extra step are more inclined to be given a citation after the inspection is complete.

OSHA Inspection Process

A. Inspector’s Credentials

The OSHA compliance officer needs to present official credentials once arriving at the work site. 29 C. F. R. § 1903 .7(a). The OSHA Inspection Manual advises the compliance officer to request “to meet an appropriate employer representative.” At a construction site this would generally be a representative of the general contractor.

B. Opening Conference

While in a preliminary conference the compliance officer will give an explanation of the reason for the visit along with the extent of the investigation. 29 C. F. R. 1903 .7(a). The employer needs to be certain to understand this important information from the compliance officer in an effort to limit the inspection, should this become required. The compliance officer usually will provide the employer a copy of the employee complaint that may possibly be involved (with the employee’s name removed, when the employee asks for anonymity). The compliance officer will ask the employer to assign an employer representative to escort the compliance officer in the course of the inspection.

C. Walk Through

After the opening meeting, the compliance officer will probably go through the job site to inspect work locations for safety and health risks. A representative of the employer should accompany the compliance officer on the inspection of the work site. 29 U. S.C. § 657 (e); 29 C. F. R. § 1903 .8. Typically, it is advisable for an experienced manager to join the compliance officer in the course of the inspection. The compliance officer can utilize reasonable investigative methods. 29 C. F. R. 1903 .7. The following are methods a compliance officer may usually take in the course of an investigation:

  • Review safety and health conditions and practices.
  • Speak with non-supervisory employees privately.
  • Take photos, videotapes, and instrument readings.
  • Inspect records.
  • Obtain air samples.
  • Measure noise levels.
  • Review current engineering controls.
  • Observe employee exposure to toxic fumes, gases, or dust.
  • Question supervisory employees with a member of management or possibly a legal representative present.
Check Out: OSHA General Duty Clause

The employer representative, that is accompanying the compliance officer, should take photos and videotapes of everything observed and recorded by the compliance officer before the closing conference with the compliance officer. Preferably, the employer will ideally explain the interview process to employees well before the meeting with the compliance officer. The employees need to be instructed to answer just the questions posed by the compliance officer so to not speculate. Needless to say, employees also need to be advised to be truthful knowing that absolutely no retaliation might be taken against them for cooperating with OSHA.

a. Scope of Walk Through

The walk through might cover part or perhaps the entirety of an establishment. In the event that the compliance officer discovers a violation in open view, they will probably request permission to broaden the inspection. The employer is allowed to decline access in the event that the request goes beyond the range of the original inspection.

b. Report of Unsafe Conditions

The OSHA Inspection Manual advises the compliance officer to communicate to the employer all unsafe or unhealthful conditions identified by the compliance officer. The compliance officer is instructed to discuss potential corrective action in the event that the employer requests. The employer representative who accompanies the compliance officer really should take advantage of this chance, but must understand that any kind of information offered by the employer representative during this conversation will be based upon individual knowledge. Further, the employer representative needs to be instructed to not volunteer any sort of information to the compliance officer, but reply just to inquiries posed by the compliance officer. Any kind of information gathered from the employer representative may be used by the compliance officer for a factor for issuing a citation. By no means must the employer representative confess to an OSHA violation.

When possible, the employer should fix violations documented by the compliance officers then and there. The OSHA Inspection Manual provides that this kind of prompt behavior by the employer might provide to help judge the “employer’s good faith in compliance.” Even so, the observed violations could still be used as a justification of a citation.

D. Closing Conference

At the closing meeting, the compliance officer will discuss with the employer every unsafe or unhealthful conditions identified in the course of the inspection and also indicate all of the clear violations for which he/she might issue or recommend a citation along with a proposed penalty. 29 C. F. R. 1903 .7(e). In the course of the closing meeting, the employer will be afforded the chance to bring to the attention of the compliance officer any kind of relevant details about the conditions of the work environment. 29 C. F. R. 1903 .7(e). The employer needs to be ready to support a defense based upon “unpreventable employee misconduct,” when appropriate. The defense necessitates the employer to show an effective documented and published safety program which has been regularly executed by the employer. Written evidence of enforcement activities, for example written warnings to offenders, are going to be necessary to support the employer’s defense.

As a result of inspections, OSHA may assess fines against a company, learn how fines are structured here


After the visit, the employer should fix all OSHA violations identified, that were unable to be fixed immediately. Document the corrective actions taken, as a response to the next contact with OSHA.

Doing so can reduce your potential liabilities, and give you a bargaining position, if or when a potential fine is brought about.

Be certain that your company is in compliance with the many OSHA regulations by visiting The OSHA website lists all regulations, as well as useful information, advice, statistics and myriad resources on how to become and remain compliant. You may also hire a safety consultant to advise you on OSHA regulations that effect your workplace and advise on any necessary corrective actions.


Inspection Priorities

OSHA cannot inspect all 7 million workplaces it covers each year so it focuses inspection resources on the most hazardous workplaces in the following order of priority:

  1. Imminent danger situations: Hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm receive top priority. Compliance officers will ask employers to correct these hazards immediately or remove endangered employees.
  2. Fatalities or hospitalizations: Employers must report work-related fatalities within 8 hours and work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye within 24 hours. CSHOs gather evidence and interview the employer, workers, and others to determine the causes of the event and whether violations occurred.
  3. Worker Complaints: A worker or worker representative can file a complaint about a safety or health hazard in the workplace. Allegations of hazards or violations also receive a high priority. Employees may request anonymity when they file complaints.
  4. Referrals: Hazards are referred from other federal, state or local agencies, individuals, organizations or the media. Referrals usually are from a government agency, such as NIOSH or a local health department.
  5. Targeted inspections: These inspections are aimed at specific high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses.
  6. Follow-up inspections: The primary purpose of a follow-up inspection is to determine if the previously cited violations have been corrected.


Additional Tips to be ready for an OSHA Inspection:

  • Be sure
    Safety Officers need to recognize that OSHA inspectors really do not enter into an organization desiring to discover elements out of place. They will not be attempting to ‘do you in’ or slap penalties around simply for fun. Their sole purpose of turning up to an organization is the check that the required safety equipment and methods are in place as well as being implemented in the proper fashion. As a double-check, have a quick look around to see if your employees are employing their safety equipment and, if not, inform them to do so right away. When completed, take your current safety documents as well as other pertinent paperwork and go in to the interview with the OSHA inspector. When you hold your head high and have an easy manner, there will be absolutely no reason to suspect either you or your company of any sort of dishonesty.
  • Stay Relaxed, Calm and Quiet
    After you’ve introduced yourself to the OSHA inspector, it’s time for you to sit still, keep quiet and pay attention to exactly what the inspector has to say. When you’re asked a direct question, provide a well thought out, sensible answer – allow your brain complete the answer before your mouth does any kind of talking. Even when your pulse is pounding in your head, stay calm and give all paperwork requested by the inspector. After the question-and-answer phase along with an examination of the safety documentation, the OSHA inspector will desire to take a tour of the business to examine things personally.
  • Provide safety equipment
    Before beginning the tour of the facilities, make sure you provide the appropriate safety equipment to the OSHA inspector. Not only will this protect the inspector from injury on your site, but it will likely indicate that you are always conscious of and watchful for safety risks and their correct prevention. This is really the single most significant component of a Safety Officer’s job within a company, so do not forget or shrug it off. Even when the OSHA inspector has brought his or her personal safety equipment, at the very least you’ve demonstrated that you have been conscious of the risks along with the correct safety protocols.
  • Display pride
    While you give the tour of the facilities, exhibit pride in the way things are performed knowing that the health and safety of every person involved is at the very top of your list of concerns. It will help if you’ve carried out a dress rehearsal of sorts ahead of time, so that you are already aware what’s what and if any kind of concerns should be resolved before an inspector calls.

Safety Standards for Forklift Programs

As part of establishing proper safety standards for a forklift program, besides site specific safety precautions, you must be aware of OSHA requirements and know how to apply them.


If you are going to implement your own in-house operator training program, you should make yourself familiar with the OSHA standards for Powered Industrial trucks and any relevant operator’s manuals for the specific equipment at your workplace. OSHA mandates that your forklift operators meet or exceed the requirements of the OSHA standard 1910.178.

Proper safety standards for powered industrial truck training

  • Identify the types of powered industrial trucks in your workplace and those employees who will be required to operate the vehicles.
  • Identify your training methods.
  • Develop the content for your training program.
  • Provide for employee evaluation.
  • Include refresher training.

It is important to recognize that training, although essential, will not be enough to eliminate accidents. To be most effective, operator training should be part of a larger comprehensive powered industrial truck safety program that includes the following elements:

  • Hazard identification and possible solutions.
  • Training (of both truck operators and those personnel working near lift trucks) and evaluation of operator competence.
  • Supervision (site survey, ongoing hazard assessment).
  • Operating procedures (company policies, recordkeeping, safety practices).
  • Maintenance and repair procedures.
  • Facility design.
  • Lift truck selection criteria (equipment survey of truck types, attachments and modifications).

Truck-related Topics to Include in Driver Training [29 CFR 1910.178(l)(3)(i)]

  • Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate.
  • Differences between the truck and the automobile.
  • Truck controls and instrumentation: where they are located, what they do, and how they work.
  • Engine or motor operation.
  • Steering and maneuvering.
  • Visibility (including restrictions due to loading).
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations.
  • Vehicle capacity.
  • Vehicle stability.
  • Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.
  • Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries.
  • Operating limitations.


As part of the safety standards of a comprehensive forklift safety program, you should have a daily forklift safety checklist, so equipment concerns are properly identified and corrected, and to ensure OSHA compliance(1910.178(q)(7)). OSHA does not mandate that the daily forklift inspections be recorded. Therefore, it is the employer’s discretion to establish the time period of powered industrial truck evaluation record retention.

So, despite the fact that OSHA does not mandate it, employing forklift assessment checklists, either written or electronic, are recommended for two reasons:

  • Makes certain that each of the fundamental features of the vehicle are inspected regularly, as well as
  • Provides you with proof to an OSHA inspector that the vehicles have been inspected like mandated.
Check Out: OSHA General Duty Clause

Recommended Forklift Safety Checklist Items:

  1. Does the forklift specification meet the operating requirement?
  2. Is clear forklift load placard provided?forklift safety standards
  3. Is seat belt provided and operable?
  4. Is the maximum speed controlled?
  5. Do horn, reversing beeper, proximity indicator and flashing light function properly?
  6. Is falling object protective structure (FOPS) provided on the forklift?
  7. Is the appropriate maintenance performed regularly?
  8. Are forklift maintenance and repair records maintained?
  9. Is there enough fuel inside forklift?
  10. Is forklift battery charged?
  11. Are the forklift tires in good condition?
  12. Do the forklift brakes work?
  13. Does the steering work well?
  14. Does the gear control work?
  15. Are the left and right mirrors available and clear?
  16. Do all indicators and gauges function properly?
  17. Are there any liquid leaks from the forklift?
  18. Are fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid and coolant levels enough?
  19. Is portable fire extinguisher fitted on the forklift?
  20. Is wearing hard hat a must for forklift operators?
  21. Any other personal protective equipment such as eye goggles, ear plugs and safety shoes required to be worn?
Looking to learn more about powered equipment safety? Check out the Powered Equipment Inspection Books I have published on Amazon, or any of my other posts on powered equipment safety

Powered Equipment Safety Standards that are often overlooked:

  • Approved trucks need to have a visible plate or some kind of identifying mark stating that it has been approved by the testing laboratory, this is usually included on a purchased truck. Routinely inspect to ensure that this plate remains attached.
  • Any modifications that affect the capacity and operation of the machine cannot be made without written consent of the manufacturer.
  • If the machine has had a front end attachment added to it, the user must see that the machine plate be updated to identify the use of the attachment, and the proper weight handling of the equipment when using the attachment.



When establishing an OSHA compliant forklift program, or reviewing your current program, below are some site specific questions you should use as guidelines:

Site Specific Powered Equipment Safety Standards

  1. Are there speed limits for powered equipment on site? Are they posted? Is the equipment speed limited?
  2. Are there appropriate traffic management plans at the plant site to prevent collision of forklifts with people and other mobile equipment by separating them in time or space? Do you have STOP signs posted? Do you have walkways for pedestrians clearly mapped out?
  3. Are all safety procedures related to forklift inspection, operation, clean up and maintenance established, maintained and communicated to related workers?
  4. Does monitoring and supervision system for ensuring all safety standards work?
  5. Do work schedules remove completely the necessity for extreme forklift speed?
  6. Are uncertified drivers allowed to operate forklift? Do you have a visible license requirement to ensure this?
  7. Is safe distance from the edge of ramps, docks, drains, gutters, floor openings and any other opening and obstacles established to prevent forklift accident?
  8. Are every ramp or dock edges safeguarded and visibly marked?
  9. Is the procedure for the safe battery charging or fuel filling established?


Now that we have established how to set-up a quality training, OSHA compliant training program, and understand how to identify site specific safety concerns, it is important to also have a solid record retention program.

Despite the fact that OSHA does not mandate the daily safety checklists be maintained, it is a best practice to retain them for a period of time, to establish to an OSHA inspector that the mandated inspections are performed.


You can follow this suggested Daily Safety Checklist record retention procedure, if you do not have an electronic form:

  • Have each daily checklist maintained on the equipment for the current day.
  • Have each form turned in to the supervisor at the end of the shift.

Maintain the records for 14days.


Forklift maintenance records should be maintained in a separate file. If the records are not maintained electronically, you can follow my suggested procedure:

  • Make a hanging file folder for each piece of equipment, organized by serial number.
  • Work with your repair vender, to invoice each repair or purchased parts by equipment serial number.

Maintain these records for 2years.


Establish a driver training log, so that you can provide an OSHA inspector with the list upon request, as well as track retraining dates. I suggest maintaining these records electronically, but if that is cost prohibitive, or if you want a physical copy as backup, here is my recommended procedure:

  • Combine each certified driver’s test, and equipment specific evaluation forms.
  • File each alphabetically in a binder, which is maintained by training year.
  • Once a month, audit the records against a list of terminated employees, remove those records and file in a terminated employee binder for the year.

Maintain these records for 3years.



Quality safety standards, a solid driver training program and a comprehensive record retention process are what is needed to ensure your program is safe and effective.

Physical Security Program; know the process

When a business hasn’t experienced a significant security incident for a while, C-suite executives typically become complacent and begin to question if all of the security procedures, systems and jobs currently set up are needed. However, complacency isn’t the right reason to reduce the security budget, particularly in a recession when crime usually increases. It is the responsibility of a security manager to make sure the organization always remembers the importance of physical security programs.

physical security programTo avoid an upswing in security incidents, security management should conduct a physical security audit of their facilities. Evaluating current physical security procedures will reveal areas where security might need to be increased to protect the company’s assets, including facilities and employees.

To design a cost-effective security program, you need to carefully consider developing a well-balanced program. While designing a well-balanced security program, you will need to take note of the 3 fundamental components of physical security strategy.

Types of Physical Security

  • Organizational (security staff and procedures as well as organizational security): Covering the involvement in the security programs by management, security staff, tenants and employees.
  • Mechanical (electronic systems): Covering the use of security hardware including access control, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), door locks, monitoring systems, emergency call boxes and intrusion alarms.
  • Natural (architectural elements): Covering basic security philosophies involving property definition, natural surveillance and access control. Also known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), you are utilizing psychological techniques to reduce risk.

Unfortunately, countless security professionals concentrate too closely on just one of the three security concepts. A number of facilities depend too much on security guards who will be able to only protect a entrances or handle a limited number of people entering the building. Utilizing a massive security team is a sizable, long-term cost. Many other facilities concentrate on mechanical security, leaving their security team and tenants untrained and uninvolved in the security process. While other facilities go without the utilization of mechanical and organizational security, dependent upon the goodwill of others or simply the psychological effect of signage.

Establishing a security program that utilizes a balance of all the above physical security strategies, will keep the program flexible and ready to handle potential risks that may develop.

A physical security audit is the first step to proper design of a comprehensive physical security program. The following steps will walk you through the initial steps of conducting a physical security audit:

Check Out: Risk Assessment Guidelines

Examine Your Risks

Before you develop your security program, you must first determine the level of risk to your facility. The higher the risk, the greater need for physical security and planning. There are three forms of risk:

  • Terrorism (International and Domestic)
  • Criminal (Crimes against people and property)
  • Environmental (Risk from nature or manmade incidents)

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have neighbors who might attract unsafe individuals to your neighborhood for either terrorist or criminal activity?
  • Does your facility contain individuals or activity that might bring risk to your doorstep?
  • How well known is your facility on a local, national or international basis?
  • Is your facility near railroad tracks, major freeways or a toxic manufacturing/storage facility?
  • Are you near a university or college?
  • Is your facility near a public park or government facility?
  • Do any of the tenants in your building have negative media or internet exposure?
  • Are there certain organizations that are not thrilled with the existence of one of the tenants in your building?
  • What is the crime rate in your neighborhood?

The responses to these particular questions are going to determine the measure of risk for your facility. That is, an office building full of proctologists almost certainly carries a lower chance of terrorist attack compared to an office building containing a Federal Government Agency. A property positioned adjacent to an abortion clinic almost certainly carries a greater risk of becoming affected by safeguards or various other harmful events. A lot more Us office buildings have been evacuated as a result of toxic fumes from derailed trains and overturned trucks as compared to terrorist activities.

Check Out: Physical Security Risk Assessment: 9 tips to secure your workplace

Creating a Balanced Physical Security Program

Utilizing the aspects of organizational, natural and mechanical security you can develop layers of physical security around your facility.

Organizational Security

organizatinl physical securityTo begin with, who may be allowed in the building? The following recommendations come under the organizational method of physical security. In the event that your company is the solitary tenant of the building, what sort of background checks do you happen to be performing on new staff members or contractors? Are you able to know if the new personnel coming through the door is a legal resident of the United States of America? Does this new staff member have a record of violence, drug use or theft? In the event that they are handling cash, have you performed a credit check? Are you permitting undocumented associates of the cleaning staff to enjoy open access to every office in the facility at night? The expense of a background investigation for every new employee are dwarfed beside the losses you could possibly experience should you allow a violent person into your work site. In the event of contract companies providing staff to the facility, does the contract require the companies to perform background investigations of their staff, and can you at any time audit this process?
Do your tenants and staff members obtain some type of security and safety orientation? Will they be familiar with who to contact in an emergency? Do they understand who needs to have access to their work space? Do they know the emergency evacuation routes, and do they understand exactly where they need to meet once they evacuate the building so a headcount may be conducted? Is the lone emergency meeting location you have chosen in close proximity to any kind of potential neighborhood problems like a railroad track?

Do you have contact with community law enforcement representatives to know what is happening in your neighborhood? Do you have meetings with your neighboring businesses to discuss the issues they are facing? Could your company be impacted by a strike next door? Is one of your neighbors being threatened? Have any of your neighbors experienced an upswing in criminal activity? Do you have a clear communication method to pass this information to your tenants, employees, or neighbors?

More robust physical security controls, for instance physical security training as well as more effective background investigations, may have averted many of these attacks. Physical security controls consist of taking preventive measures to stop unauthorized physical access to restricted areas in addition to preventing physical theft. Insider threats to physical security may come from current or perhaps previous staff, contractors, or even respected business associates, which includes custodial personnel or security guards. Employees granted open access must be comprehensively vetted. As an example, custodial employees as well as security guards must submit to the exact same background investigation just like all the other insiders. Staff with this kind of access should likewise undergo regular security awareness training due to the fact their jobs cause them to become popular prey for social engineering attacks.


Natural Security

Now consider your facility perimeter utilizing natural security aspects. Look at your facility as a stranger might from the outside. Are your property boundaries clearly defined? Would a stranger know if he or she were walking or driving from public to private property? Is this clearly defined by signage or architectural design? Does the signage define the rules of your property? Are the rules enforced? Is your property given the appearance of being well maintained? Is graffiti quickly removed or covered? Are bushes trimmed low so they cannot be used for hiding? Is the lawn maintained? If you answered no to one or more of these questions, you will give the unsafe stranger the impression that you don’t care about your facility’s appearance and probably also do not care about security.

At night, is the area around your property dark and foreboding or well illuminated? Do your employees or tenants feel apprehension when they walk from your building to the parking lot or parking deck at night? Could they see danger at a distance or are there shadowy hiding areas where unsafe individuals could be lurking?

If you have a large parking lot or a parking deck, do you provide your employees, visitors or tenants emergency call boxes? Such call stations reduce the fear of isolation and distance. Are these boxes well illuminated and marked? Are they easily seen from all areas of the parking facility? Are the call boxes regularly checked to make sure they are working? Is there someone always ready to answer an emergency call from the call box? If the call comes in, will the person answering know where the call is coming from if the person making the call cannot speak?


Mechanical Security

The use of security hardware can greatly enhance your security program if there is a high risk to your property. How many entrances are there to your building? Are these entrances monitored? When we say monitored we could mean a lobby receptionist, a CCTV camera or an employee that can observe the entrance from his or her desk. Could an office creeper or stalker enter your facility without ever being seen or recorded by anyone or any system? Don’t forget about the back doors and the loading dock. These back doors can be a problem when they are left propped open by smokers. Limit the number of access points to your building and use some form of natural or mechanical surveillance so that those approaching and entering the facility have the feeling they are being monitored. You want to make the unsafe individual feel uncomfortable.

When using mechanical security systems, such as CCTV, look for systems that will give you the best bang for your buck. Which would be more helpful, a CCTV system that records individuals walking down a hallway at three in the morning or a system that records and alerts your monitoring station that someone is walking down that hallway and advising them what action may need to be taken? Make sure you are using all the features available in your security systems or that you purchase a system that meets your needs.

Access control systems provide a positive confirmation that the persons entering your facility or a particular strategic area are authorized. In very high-risk buildings or areas, the use access cards, combined with Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) key pad or a biometric reader will confirm a stolen access card is not being used to gain access.

Depending on the level of risk at your facility, you may want to introduce an inspection layer in your lobby. You may want to install signage that indicates you plan to randomly inspect packages carried in by visitors. You may have visitors walk through a magnetometer. Again, this will be defined by the potential threats to your facility.

One other access point is your air intake vents. This is not about a disgruntled ex-employee entering the facility through the vent, but instead introducing some toxic substances to your building to disrupt your operations. Are your air vents on the roof or at ground level? Many of these vents are in buildings built in the 1960’s, in the loading dock area where a badly positioned vehicle could introduce exhaust into the HVAC system. Are your ground-level air intakes monitored?

How quickly can you turn off your HVAC system in the event a foreign substance might be introduced to your system? Remember that question asked earlier about being near a railroad track, freeway or toxic manufacturing plant? If a toxic cloud were floating in the immediate area of your facility, how quickly could you turn off your HVAC system so the cloud is not sucked into the building? Before you say your HVAC system is automatically turned off when you sound the fire alarm, remember that audible fire alarm is also telling your employees and tenants to head outside into the toxic cloud when it might be safer to keep them inside your airtight building until the cloud disperses.


Levels of Response

Now that you created a balanced security program for your facility you have one additional concern. What will your security levels of response be? What we have described so far are the layers of security planned for your building on the average workday. What if your facility comes under some form of alert? The alert may come from some form of specific or general threat directed towards your building, company, tenant, area, city or country.

You need to develop a plan for additional layers of security in the event of such threats. It is important to pre-plan this higher level of security and have your staff pre-trained on the increased response. Don’t try to handle it on the fly. Will you add security staff? Will you shut down some access points? Will you increase access control? Will you start or increase package inspections? By having an increased security plan already in place with your staff trained in their new duties, when a threat comes around, you are ready.


As you can see, planning the security of your facility comes from using layers of organizational, mechanical and natural security. By using all these aspects of physical security, you can develop a physical security program that is both effective and COST effective.