How to Incorporate Security into Workspace Design

March 27, 2018

Keeping employees safe is your top priority

Keeping employees safe is a top priority for every organization. Unfortunately, today more than ever before, it is critical to factor physical safety from violence into your security plans and workplace design.

 

Top security concerns of businesses

Normal safety concerns include keeping employees safe during weather events or a building fire. Organizations improve on-the-job safety by minimizing hazards that could cause falls, sprains, or repetitive motion injuries. Most companies have monitoring systems in place to guard property and assets from vandalism, theft, and sabotage.

The security nightmare for any organization has become the active shooter or mass casualty scenario—a deranged outsider or disgruntled employee perpetrating lethal violence in the office, warehouse, or plant. Non-lethal workplace violence committed by coworkers or domestic partners are also a cause for concern.

 

RUN…HIDE…FIGHT… in an open office design?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security advises people in an active shooter situation to RUN if possible, HIDE if running is not safe, and if all else fails, FIGHT.

In an office environment, this usually means fleeing the exits if you hear shooting, or closing and locking an office door to hide if the shooter is between the you and a safe exit. In a desperate situation, grab anything at hand (phone, chair, pepper spray) and attempt to disable and disarm the shooter.

An ​open office design complicates the Run, Hide, Fight strategy​. First, employees are grouped close together, making an easier target for the shooter. Second, there is no cover as employees attempt to flee—the shooter will see all of their movements. Finally, an open office has very few private offices or rooms and they often incorporate open design elements such as glass walls that afford no protection.

Design tips:

  • Improve your employees’ ability to RUN by making your facility has at least two evacuation routes (in an open design, more may be better). Train employees on their routes and post them prominently as panicked employees may forget.
  • Because employees in an open office have limited ability to HIDE, pay extra attention to securing physical access to the building.
  • Help employees HIDE by inserting private enclaves and team meeting rooms into your design. Your organization already needs spaces like these for team collaboration and private employee communication. Do not use see-through glass and reinforce doors with strong locks to create protective physical barriers.

Security planning tips:

  • Create a security plan that specifically addresses an active shooter scenario. Train employees and managers to that plan.
  • Run active shooter drills so employees can practice.
  • Create a trauma kit to staunch wounds and stop bleeding​. Most active shooter incidents are over in less than two minutes. But it can also take only 2-3 minutes for a gunshot victim to die from loss of blood.

 

Restricted physical access forms the foundation of proactive security

The best way to prevent workplace violence is to prevent outsiders will harmful intent from entering the property. That is why ​facility access control is a critical component of any workplace safety strategy​.

Design tips:

  • All buildings and facilities must require credential access in order to enter. Credentials can take several forms, including cards, badges, and mobile phone credentials. Do not use keys that can be copied.
  • Issue security credentials only to employees. Do not allow ex-employees to keep credentials. If you provide temporary credentials to visitors, make sure they can be turned off immediately and automatically if they are not returned.
  • All visitors and deliveries must go to a single door to gain entrance. There, you can have either a security officer physically present at a desk, or you can have a camera and intercom to communicate with the visitor prior to opening the door.
  • Monitor entrances and parking lots with security cameras. Parking lots should be well lit and offer no cover for criminals to hide (hedgerows, dumpsters, etc.)

Remember that physical access restriction will not prevent most workplace violence perpetrated by security-cleared employees with access credentials. To lower risks in this area, train managers and employees to identify the warning signs of an employee who may be becoming unstable. Have a reliable system for reporting these potential threats and following up.

 

Don’t neglect other safety concerns

Employers must not become so focused on low-probability, high-impact scenarios, such as active shooter situations, that they neglect higher-probability, lower-impact safety and security concerns. ​Thoughtful office design should also attempt to minimize risks such as slips, falls, and ergonomics injuries​.

Open office design increases teamwork and innovation, as well as instilling a sense of transparency in the company culture. Consider hiring a security consultant to analyze vulnerabilities and suggest critical safety and security features for your open office.

Asure Software’s Workspace Management solutions ​help organizations measure space utilization and formulate the most efficient plan for transitioning to an open—yet secure—workspace design​.