Essex County Council: Keeping security personnel safe during the COVID-19 pandemic

Early in the pandemic, Essex Resilience Forum (ERF) set up a faith & communities tactical coordination group (TCG). Bringing together public services and representatives from faith and community organisations across Greater Essex (Essex, Southend and Thurrock), the group’s role was to identify issues of concern to communities and develop effective communications between communities and the public services leading the pandemic response.

One question the TCG has explored is who is at risk from COVID-19 based on the work they do and their ethnicity or other factors? This was informed by emerging evidence - subsequently confirmed by the Public Health England review of disparities in COVID-19 risks and outcomes in June – that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, older people, men and people with certain health conditions were more likely to get seriously ill and die if they contracted COVID-19.

First the TCG completed a campaign aimed at keeping taxi and private hire drivers and operators safe during the pandemic by working with licensing colleagues and taxi operators from across the county. In response to the PHE review the TCG set up a task and finish group to explore and respond to the inequalities it identified. This saw that security personnel were a high-risk group because of the proportion of male, older and BAME workers in the sector and their very public role.

Whether on a building site during lockdown, in a shop, office, pub or restaurant, security staff are close to the public, often fulfilling an enforcing role or at the very least asking people to comply with behaviours that don’t yet come naturally, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings.

The potential for confrontation and unavoidable contact in the role was clear. The task group set up a pan-Essex meeting with security operators, including the head of security for Mitie and the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to identify any opportunities to reinforce Government messaging aimed at the workforce.

The solution

Following the meeting representatives from the ECC Equalities and Partnerships Team, who coordinate and support the TCG, had a clear mandate to simplify and refocus Government guidance in a way that would reach security personnel.

Working with their Communication and Design colleagues, the ECC team produced two digital assets: a short, graphic, six-point guidance document entitled ‘Top coronavirus safety tips for security personnel’ and a similar document for security operators. Designed to be shared quickly through social media the regional SIA team saw the value in the work and asked that it be circulated nationally rather than just in Greater Essex.

  • The assets were hosted on under coronavirus support for employers and businesses and sent out by the SIA through Twitter with one security company adding the comment “a must read for all security officers”. ECC also circulated them through its Twitter feed and to ERF partner organisations. The Top Tips were included in the August SIA update, sent to security personnel across the country.

The Rt Rev Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester, who chairs the TCG said, “Through talking to communities and partners we recognised fairly early on that front-line workers were not just at risk from COVID-19 but had an important role in helping protect others and spread awareness. It is gratifying that this communication to security personnel and operators has been so well received. The work is not over though: coronavirus is not going away and workers in other sectors are at risk, so we’ll keep talking with our communities and developing other materials.”