6 Physical Security Measures Every Small Business Should Implement

Small business owners in South Africa are in a very unique position – operating in a country that is often considered the most dangerous country to live in poses certain unique challenges.  Knowing how to keep a small business safe is often daunting, yet all employers feel a responsibility to not only protect their business, but also their employees.

According to statistics released by the South African Police Service, business robberies are on the increase and as a result more and more businesses are investing in physical business security measures to keep their stock, assets and staff safe.

Crime affecting businesses largely falls into three broad categories namely burglary, armed robbery and financial crimes. Over 40 percent of incidents that occur are cases of burglary, 23 percent are shoplifting cases and 19 percent are cases of robbery.

The effects of crime on business range from the obvious (loss of stock, loss of essential operating equipment etc.) to some less obvious effects like employees feeling resistant to commute to work or to stay after hours. In cases where a crime has been committed, the health costs of an employee can rise dramatically as a result of injuries or stress. The psychological effect of crime can even cause depression in business owners – almost half of business owners have reported depression and loss of motivation after being victims of a business crime.

Finding small business security advice can be time-consuming, so here is a list of 6 physical business security measures you can implement immediately to ensure that your business is as safe as it can be.

1)  Start From the Outside In

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a concept of using nature to assist in protecting your business from an intruder. The three main concepts are natural access control, natural surveillance and territorial reinforcement. Applying these concepts can be done by using the creative use of lighting, fencing and landscaping as crime prevention tools. Keeping the plants surrounding your building trimmed in such a way as to enhance visibility or planting ‘thorny’ bushes around your building are ways in which you can utilize these concepts.

2)  External Access Minimization

Minimizing the amount of access people have to your business is another way in which you can ensure that intruders do not physically gain access to your business. Consider changing all the door locks and minimizing the amount of people who have access to the new keys. Install good quality security doors and ensure they are locked at all times. During opening and closing times, ensure that there is a clear “exit and entrance”  policy in place so that all employees know their individual responsibilities with regards to keys and the locking and unlocking of doors.

3)  Lighting and Surveillance

Installing adequate external lighting is an easy, inexpensive way to increase the security around your building. Criminals tend to shy away from well-lit, clearly visible office areas as they prefer to operate under cover of darkness. Installing a good surveillance system like cameras and access control will go a long way to protecting your business. Being able to control who has access to your business internally is just as important as controlling external access. Keeping a log of your employees’ movements enables you to monitor their habits and possibly notice anything out of the ordinary. Being able to monitor via video can also enable you to go to the police with the suspects’ face, should they have gained entry and committed a crime.

4)  Clear Desk Policy

More and more companies are opting for implementing a “clear desk” policy where employees are encouraged to ensure all documents and equipment is locked away and stored at the end of the day. This not only protects the company from a potential data leak, but also makes a would-be intruder less tempted to break in. This is especially applicable to open-plan office set-ups or where the office areas are easily accessible by visitors or clients.

5)  Security Culture

We all know that having a ‘company culture’ is important – not just for morale but also for performance and job satisfaction. Employees can also benefit from the creation of a “security culture”. Assign each staff member a specific security responsibility and put checks in place to ensure the task is being completed correctly. These tasks can include the opening and closing of windows or doors, turning off of electronic equipment, ensuring the correct lights are switched on or off, checking that desks are clear at the end of the day, etc. Having a security culture gives the employee a sense of responsibility, while at the same time easing the burden on the business owner.

6)  Continuous Analysis

Putting security measures in place is just one facet of keeping your business safe. The other is continuous monitoring. A stagnating security procedure is a dead security procedure. Just as criminals never stop refining the ways in which they target your business, you can also never stop refining your security strategy. Continuously assessing and analyzing the efficacy and practicality of your system will ensure that it not only works, but that it endures and keeps working to keep you safe. Consider putting together a document of all your security policies and ensuring all employees are properly informed and trained on the system. Engage your employees on the system and you will ensure they enforce it willingly and consistently. Establish a clear communication and response system for emergencies. Give each employee a function in this system so that, in the case of a robbery or suspicious behaviour, all employees know what to do and who to communicate with.

This list of business security tips is by no means exhaustive, but it will go a long way to keeping your small business safe from potential attacks. Adhering to the three R’s of workplace safety (Report, Respond and Review) can be the difference between being safe from, or being a victim of, a business crime.

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