“You’re not coming in here with that hammer”. Construction in Secure Environments

3rd January 2017

By Sean Kelly MBE, Director – Strategic Logistics Solutions

The modern world is faced with many security challenges. Invariably the response to this blight on the concept of greater freedom, is to make potential targets ever more secure. From airports to schools and from nuclear power stations to domestic dwellings, increased levels of security are commonplace.

Heightened security measures are difficult enough to implement when you know your everyday users and visitors. When someone unusual turns up who wants to knock down your fence and let in unknown workers, your security will endeavour to prevent access. Unfortunately, all too often this is the precise scenario presented by construction activities. In your own home, would you provide a plumber with a key and the code to your alarm? The answer of course is that unless the tradesman is well known, most of us wouldn’t. For a national infrastructure site such circumstances present serious legal and compliance issues.

This is all well and good, except that construction has to take place. At the highest level, the same organisation that is responsible for the security is also responsible for letting the construction contract.

Security professionals are usually mindful that individuals can be senseless and fickle, even without malicious intent. Consequently, they seek to break down often complex requirements into a series of relatively straightforward steps so as to achieve the required level of security. This is no easy task and once completed, amending the steps is difficult because they are rapidly enshrined in working practices. When faced with a construction company, which is customarily facing challenging budget and time constraints, and who considers themselves unable to comply with security procedures and still complete the job, some degree of conflict is likely. How then to resolve such conflict ?

The answer is to go back to basics, and by ‘basics’ I mean further back than either the security or construction professionals want to go. “We always do it like that” is often heard from both camps. A common discussion is: ”Unless you follow all our normal security procedures you’re not getting in” followed by a reply of “Unless you take down the fence you won’t get your new building”. The problem is very much that the working practices built up over years are too inflexible to cope with an unusual situation. So, we go back to the very low level basics to discover the actual requirement, whether construction or security, that the existing working practices meet. Then we seek to develop new working practices that facilitate the requirements and constraints of both sides.

It might sound simple, but in practice it starts with a significant battle, with a great deal of paperwork, with no one wanting to take responsibility for changed procedures, and with every possible stakeholder inventing reasons why it can’t work. Once over this hump, introducing changed procedures is never easy. Training becomes an issue and on occasion, downright non-compliance with changed processes rears its ugly head.   This waste of energy, when in reality the whole activity has to happen, is astounding, and we see it again and again across many different industries.

It’s in this maelstrom of negative activity, that we do our best work, charting a path that suits everyone. Heated initial meetings; detailed analysis of existing working practices; creation of new workable procedures; then their implementation and operation; is a common theme. All sites are different, but their problems are very much the same. Construction logistics is a nightmare for security professionals – security is a nightmare for construction professionals. Wilson James provides bespoke ‘Secure Logistics’ solutions that resolve these issues. We ensure all stakeholders can meet their requirements, security remains compliant and consequently this risk to construction programmes and budget is eliminated.

Why then are we not doing this everywhere ? Why are so many secure establishments muddling through with ad hoc arrangements characterised by constant arguments and recriminations ? To answer this, you need look no further than budget structures. Few organisations have the same person presiding over both security and construction activities. In many cases these specialist disciplines only come together at Chief Executive level. Neither has any real responsibility to the other. It takes an enlightened leader to see the benefits that would accrue from a smooth running process and then to direct, fund and support the development of workable solutions.

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. Those clients who have benefitted from ‘Secure Logistics’ solutions stick with us. We are consistently called back for the next job. Many large clients with almost continual development programmes, use us on a constant basis to provide that backbone of capability that facilitates construction in their complex and secure environment. Of course having us there also protects clients from the excesses of construction contractors’ supply chains who habitually seek to push the boundaries.

We do great work in the most complex of circumstances for the most demanding of clients. We blend the skills from across the company, building on the foundations provided by both the Security and Construction Logistics sectors to conceive innovative, integrated ‘Secure Logistics’ solutions, that win awards and ensure our clients keep coming back.