Handling a Wider Range of Threats
The potential of terrorism and violence complicate the "safety" landscape.
- By Mike Kasun
- Dec 01, 2006
WHEN I was younger, it used to frustrate me
to hear folks talk of the "good old days." As with most of us, the
frustration subsided as I got older. Comparing everything from the pace of life
to the cost of gasoline, a clearer understanding of the "good old days"
apparently comes with age! So it is, unfortunately, with the traditionally
defined safety profession. As I look back at the past five years, the
challenges of the profession have changed dramatically.
Gone forever are the days of focusing
strictly on the dangers of accidents caused by unforeseen circumstances and/or
carelessness. As frightening as these unintentional accidents seem when they
occur, the sheer scope of possible intentional events, targets, and approaches
defines the term "terror" these days. And, as news accounts regularly
point out, terror can range from acts perpetrated by geopolitical radicals to
disgruntled employees to wayward students.
In the industrial, commercial, and
municipal worlds, preparation for the almost infinitely widened scope of
possible events falls to the safety community. Today, more and more safety
departments are being charged with developing plans and programs to assure
on-site security, as well.
If you stop and think about it, the largest
challenge we face is the unknown. It's normal to fear circumstances that are
undefined until it's too late to prepare for their consequences. Unlike
preparing for traditional safety challenges, the scope of possible things that
can be "done to you" today is much greater than those that can occur because
of accident or carelessness. And you can't prepare for every possible
eventuality, which is precisely the confusion that terrorists seek.
What you can do to make the situation more
tolerable is to enhance security--by limiting access and movement without
slowing down normal operations--and dramatically increase communications with
authorized individuals. Enabling employees and other people who are supposed to
be in a specific area to easily determine those that don't belong is a key
step. Name badges for employees and guests, sign-in registers, and access
restrictions are critical security measures.
Communicating about the specifics of your
overall security plan and the status of compliance throughout the facility
should be ongoing. Your greatest two assets in the security battle are the
processes/access limitations you put into place to ensure security and the
authorized people in any given area who can be trained to monitor their
One of the most important communications
tools available is standardized signage that provides access instructions, as
well as directions in the event of a terrorist or other incident. Highly
visible signage gives formal notice of your requisite processes and procedures
while constantly reminding employees and others of the need for their personal
There are, however, several complications
to providing integrated safety and security in-plant signage. While generic
safety signs are available from a variety of catalog suppliers, these generic
messages and sizes often do not address the specific needs of specific
applications and plant locations. This often has produced a confusing array of
several safety signs, with sometimes conflicting messages, being employed in a
single area. This confusion was a challenge prior to any discussion about
adding security signs to the in-plant communications matrix!
To address this problem, industrial,
commercial, and municipal safety professionals have increasingly moved toward
using sign generation software on site. It allows them to configure tailored
signs that are consistent in appearance and specific to each area in which they
are hung. Additionally, this software typically provides the use of ANSI and
OSHA symbols for cross-industry and multicultural understanding. The use of
symbols is critical to cross-industry and multicultural operations because
pictures easily can transcend language barriers.
On-site, tailored sign generation has
provided safety pros with the ability to tailor multi-message signs aimed at
diverse groups. The best of these software programs also provide flexibility of
computer and printer compatibility, mitigating the need for specialized
hardware to support on-site sign generation.
With respect to adding security messaging
and symbols to the equation, on-site sign design and print software can provide
full integration of homeland security symbols into its pallet of available
symbols. This allows users to combine ANSI, OSHA, and homeland security symbols
with appropriate textual messaging into a single sign. This is an important
capability to have on a local--design and print on demand--level for the
obvious precautionary and security planning purposes. However, it can become
even more critical in the event of a security incident or disaster, when
directional and other signs would need to be available immediately. Having homeland
security symbols embedded into on-site sign preparation software also provides
safety professionals with the tools necessary to make training materials for
employee education on security incidents and threat levels.
The events of 9/11 and beyond have changed
the face of business operations forever. However, many of the rules that govern
how we plan and operate remain essentially the same: We need to continually
assess our risks, take steps to mitigate them, train, and clearly communicate
with our employees, asking them to be vigilant and respond properly when needed.
And we need to use every tool at our disposal.
This article appeared in the December 2006 issue of
Occupational Health & Safety.
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.