Don’t Talk So Much? Why Not?

I was googling around for news stories about the security industry when I came upon this interesting Straits Times article. Towards the end of 2014, a Manpower Correspondent went undercover as a security guard and uncovered some going-ons at a condominium and later on, a newly completed commercial building.

And at this second work site, he was scolded by his supervisor when he suggested that they should just lock a door instead of assigning a guard to guard it. According to the article, the room was recently sprayed with chemical and so a guard was posted there to prevent people from entering. Probably for health reasons.

Was the undercover security guard wrong? Not really. If I were the supervisor at that site, I would have expected a rookie guard to make that suggestion. And I would have responded to the rookie-like suggestion properly, instead of losing my temper.

Well, since the supervisor in the story failed to explain why the suggestion was not taken seriously, let me do the job. Just off the top of my head, I can think of 3 good reasons why a guard was deployed instead of a lock.

#1 Ventilation

The room was just sprayed with chemical, right? So naturally, they had to keep it open to clear the smell.

#2 Unwanted Responsibilities

But even if they weren’t keeping the door open, it was still a bad idea to get a lock and keys. Any working adult will know this. At the workplace, you can’t simply go out to NTUC, buy a lock and fix it onto your office’s door just because you fancy a bit of privacy. What would your boss say? Similarly, a security supervisor can’t simply send out one of his guards to buy a lock and fix it onto one of the doors at his work site. What would the rightful tenant say? To get something like that done, the security supervisor would have to explain the situation to the security manager and then the security manager would have to bring it up before the management team running the show at the building.

And the management might want to know this: Who’s paying for, not just the lock, but duplicate keys for the key press?

And then they might ask: We are already paying for so many guards to hang around here so why can’t we just put one in front of the door? It is only for a few days, right?

See, from the management point of view, the thing with the chemical spray was only temporary so it didn’t make sense for them to spend money on a lock and keys.

Also, once a lock is installed, the key would go to the key press under the charge of the security team and each time someone wants to enter that room, the guard on duty at the FCC or security counter would have to note down particulars like name, NRIC number, date and time and all that. For each and every time the key is drawn.

AND if someone draws the key and forgets to return the damn thing, more trouble is created. Suppose one of the workers draws the key and goes back to the dormitory with it? And just supposing the tenant or real estate people wish to view the room? What will the security team have to do to fix the problem? Phone calls would have to be made and the poor worker resting in his dormitory would have to hurry down, maybe in the middle of the night, just to return the key.

By the way, Mr. Toh, if a guard somehow forgets to note down the contact number for the current key holder, and thus renders the key unavailable for use, he could lose his place at the work site.

So much trouble. Far easier to just post a guard in front of that room for a few days, right?

#3 Making Work

I remember working at an office building where I had to stand guard inside the lift every now and then, to assist passengers by pressing buttons. You know, like one of them Japanese lift ladies. And most of the time, I never had to press anything for anyone. Except on those rare occasions when someone’s hands were too occupied to even attempt this simple task.

Why did I have to do that? It wasn’t even necessary! So I asked my supervisor. Luckily, he was a patient guy, unlike the supervisor in the Straits Times article. So he answered: Making work.

In order to justify hiring a certain number of guards, the client had to make work for us. That meant assigning a guard to ‘guard’ the lift and sometimes sitting at an empty desk ‘guarding’ nothing in particular. Totally unnecessary of course. And I was free to say so to the management. But that would mean it wasn’t necessary for them to pay for so many guards in the first place. So I kept my mouth shut. Because, you know, gift horse. Mouth. Don’t look.

You know, it would have taken no time at all for the supervisor to explain all 3 points to his subordinate. I wonder why he didn’t.

Anyway, good story. It’s just too bad the Manpower Correspondent didn’t hang around for long enough. A few days on the job is not going to be enough to uncover the really juicy details about security work.

Teck Y. Loh


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Level 99 Security Guard

Posted on October 9, 2015, in Security Work and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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