Alarm Activations, Keyholding and the risk of violence - what can you do?


People who deal with the public may be subject to aggressive and sometimes violent behaviour, they can be verbally abuse, verbally and physically threatened and on some occasions, physically attacked.

The following guidance is aimed at employers and is to help you to understand if the risk of violence is prevalent for your employees and if it is, what can be done to minimise the risks. This advice should also interest employees also.

The Health and Safety Executive’s definition of work-related violence is:

‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’.

Verbal abuse and threats are the most common types of incident. Physical attacks are comparatively rare.

Employees whose job requires them to deal with the public can be at risk from violence. Most at risk are those who are engaged in: *Education, *Care, *Cash Transactions, *Deliveries and Collection, *Representing Authority, *Giving a general service.

Employers should take a keen interest in reducing violence at work. For employers, violence can lead to poor morale and a poor image for the organisation, making it difficult to recruit and keep staff. It can also mean extra cost, with absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and compensation payments. 

What the law requires 

There are five main pieces of health and safety law which are relevant to violence at work. These are:

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) 

Employers have a legal duty under this Act to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees.

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 

Employers must assess the risks to employees and make arrangements for their health and safety by effective:

–  planning;

–  organisation;

–  control;

–  monitoring and review.

The risks covered should, where appropriate, include the need to protect employees from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence.

  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) 

Employers must notify their enforcing authority in the event of an accident at work to any employee resulting in death, major injury or incapacity for normal work for three or more consecutive days. This includes any act of non-consensual physical violence done to a person at work.

  • Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (a) and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (b)

Keyholding and Alarm Response

The vast majority of business' and property these days are equipped with an intruder alarm, usually these are mandatory devices that must be fitted to properties as a matter of course in order to comply with insurance regulations and policies, however what happens at your property in the vent of an alarm activation? Often, many business owners, particularly in small business' will respond to out of hours alarm activations themselves, in larger business' a nominated employee or manager/supervisor will respond. This can for obvious reasons increase risk. Responding to out of hours alarm activations can be a nervy operation to undertake, this risk is there from the off but rather than treating the activation for what it is, it can often be judged as simply as an inconvenience or that 'someone needs to go and rest the alarm', However, if your intruder alarm activates, it is doing it for a reason - that is your system telling you of a potential breach and intrusion to the property.

The majority of intruder alarm activations are indeed false alarms, however this causes the likelihood of becoming complacent when dealing with the problem. Statistically, at some point your building will be attacked. We of course are a keyholding company, anyone reading this would now assume that I am going to inform you that you MUST use our services in order to comply with regulations and that insurance companies insist on search a service being put into practice, but is this true?

Well, no it isn't. let's look at a recent real life case study:

'A company with an employee nominated as a primary intruder alarm keyholder was told by insurers that there is a legal requirement to establish a “Keyholding Service” with a professional security company in order to comply with health and safety regulations.'

In Reality: According to HSE:

'Employers do need to take steps to ensure that those responding to alarm call outs are not exposed to a risk of violence. Those steps will be based on an assessment of the risks to their employees. Whilst a ‘keyholding’ service’ may form part of a safe system of work, there is no legal requirement to engage such a service. The insurance company should not have implied that this was the case.'

That being said, Workplace violence is considered one of the dominant risks faced by organisations operating in diverse commercial sectors across the globe.  Workplace violence features prominently in the top ten list of major security concerns impacting upon global business and especially those operating within the UK, mostly due to liability issues rather than the number of actual incidents.  According to the HSE there were an estimated 569,000 incidents of violence at work 2014/15 comprising 308,000 assaults and 261,000 threats.  Strangers were the offenders in 54% of cases of workplace violence. Among the 46% of incidents where the offender was known, the offenders were most likely to be clients or a member of the public known through work.

Employees can be considered key assests to any business, essential for day to day operation, reduce risks whenever you can, for the good of your business and the welfare of your employees.

Directors of business and business owners will often choose to respond themselves to out of hours alarm activations, what would happen to your business if a key member of staff was injured or attacked whilst responding to an alarm activation? Allowing a professional security provider to assist you in dealing with your business threats can only reduce future losses and inconvenience, Costs need not spiral out of control, many keyholding companies can provide fixed cost services, to eliminate unexpected call out charges, repair invoices and recurring costs from faulty intruder systems or repeated attacks on the property.

Contact Inquest Canine Detection & Security Ltd for more information on the services we provide and for any quotes relating to your manned security services.