Last week, at work, my colleagues and I received an e-mail from the Security and Operations team, reinforcing security protocol to be followed in the office and emphasizing the need to stay alert to remain safe. This made me think of all the security measures the security department must have to consider, and made me wonder about the specific guidelines and checklist they have to follow.
So, what does a workplace security inspection checklist comprise? It is a set of guidelines and verification questions around all aspects of security in the workplace, meant to regularly check compliance with safety regulations and to keep security policies up to date. A good checklist covers employee personal safety, safety from hazards and from external threats.
Workplace security inspection is an important component of maintaining and improving the existing security system in place. A workplace security inspection checklist helps in pointing out those areas that require immediate attention and in testing out newly implemented security measures as well. The checklist itself must be updated from time to time with changing requirements. Generally, such checklists are created keeping in mind factors such as the country’s workplace safety regulations, location and type of space the office is in, the kind of work done in the office, etc.
While creating an ideal security inspection checklist for the workplace, it is important to consider company policies and regulations. The existing security system and protocol for physical as well as cyber security has to be studied and analysed carefully before creating the checklist. Moreover, it might be advisable to have conversations with employees from all levels, especially managers, on the current security measures and how they think these may be improved. It is also wise to remain updated with improving and newly developed security measures such as alarms with sensors, specialized locking systems, automatic doors, etc.
Also, there is the need to assess the kind of information employees possess at the moment of the security system in place, so that the checklist can also be prepared accordingly. Most importantly, while creating the checklist, one should think from the viewpoint of someone visiting the office for the first time, someone who has no prior awareness of such things as the locations of the emergency exits, the entry/exit protocol, etc. That way the checklist will be more thorough and will examine the security system completely.
Once the checklist is made, the inspection can begin. As the inspection proceeds, the team in charge will come across the flaws in the system and will be able to start making the necessary improvements. There are several security audit agencies these days that do a good job inspecting the office security thoroughly and then provide detailed feedback.
There are myriad factors that must be kept in mind to create the perfect security inspection checklist. The duty of a security inspector is not easy as they have to take into consideration so many aspects of security and safety, and it is not possible for them to remember all of these by heart. Thus, the checklist must include everything related to the security system of the office, so that all grounds are covered. It is necessary that the security inspection checklist should be shared not just with the concerned team, but also with all the people working in the office, to ensure maximum compliance to, and understanding of the protocol. Here are 49 points that must be included in every workplace security inspection checklist-
1. The first thing to check for would be whether adequate and well-defined documentation exists for security protocol in the office. This security includes, but is not limited to physical security of the employees, cyber security measures, precautions against natural and manmade disasters and safety hazards. The checklist must ask if such a document exists and if it covers all the aspects thoroughly.
2. Next, it is important to ask about monitoring and surveillance. While different workplaces have varying rules regarding privacy and monitoring, it must at least be ensured that entry and exit points must be kept under CCTV surveillance 24/7.
3. Additionally, the checklist must ask about monitoring of cyber systems and all areas of restricted access, as it is important that no unauthorized person should be able to enter these. If not by CCTV surveillance, the checklist should ask if these areas are supervised and patrolled continuously by trained security personnel.
4. Along with this, the checklist should include questions regarding stairways and halls as well. It should be ensured that these spaces where people walk through frequently are free of obstruction in the form of storage boxes, wires, etc.
5. The checklist must question the level of access from outside the office, as well as within the organization. What is the procedure an outsider follows to enter the office? The checklist must include practices such as taking names, details and ID proof of outsiders coming into the office along with verified purpose of visit. If any external agencies such as repair persons and utility staff enter the office premises, their credentials must be verified between the office and the agency.
6. An important question to ask in the checklist regarding access within the company and hence within the office, is about employee identification. The necessary information pertaining to every employee along with a clear photo ID should be available on the company’s database for the security team to peruse when they may need to. Internally, the checklist should ask about the different levels of employees and which level has access to what kind of information and/or access to physical parts of the premises.
7. Regarding employee identification, the checklist must also ensure that employees have ID cards and/or badges that are distinctive and only these can allow the employees access to the office premises and to restricted access locations within. The checklist should also ask about the use of magnetic strips in the ID cards to automatically allow entry, and that such cards are withdrawn from employees after they exit the organization.
8. The checklist should also focus on the aspect of employee training with regards to security and safety. Are all the employees properly trained to assess security threats and protect themselves as well as each other against them as best as possible? For example, are employees trained on what to do in case of a fire? Have employees been briefed on cyber security protection measures and are aware of simple things they can do for safety, such as locking their belongings, shredding confidential papers after use, etc?
9. The checklist must ask about alarm systems. Does the office space, including parking lot, entry, exit, emergency exit and restricted access area, have a functioning alarm system installed? In case of intruders by any chance, such an alarm system will come in use and should be up to date. Fire alarms should also be functional and installed over the office space.
10. It is advisable for the checklist to ask about lighting systems and functionality, particularly in potentially risky areas of the office premises, such as the parking lot. It should be checked that the lighting in such zones is fully functional, not prone to flickering or dying out and is adequate to see well.
11. One highly important part of the checklist must be devoted to the presence and storage of hazardous and potentially dangerous items/material in the office space. Are flammable items marked as such and stored carefully in designated storage to ensure safety? Do utility staff who may work with or near dangerous material have awareness of the hazard and are trained to handle it?
12. It should also be ensured that hazardous material should be kept in secure and locked storage locations where any sort of leakage or spill can be contained easily. The checklist should ask about the measures taken to mitigate the damage caused by such incidents. Further, at workplaces where such materials are in proliferation and stored in large quantities, ideally a list should be available detailing the properties and use of each substance to prevent any form of confusion. This storage should be extremely restricted access in nature to avoid terrible accidents.
13. The checklist should ask about the entry and exit points of the office. Apart from being under surveillance and security guard patrolling, are these areas free from obstruction so people can come and go safely? Are exit doors, particularly emergency exit doors, marked properly and clearly? Are emergency exit signs lit up and devoid of malfunctioning in any way?
14. Along with having trained security guards patrolling the entry and exit points, it should also be checked that the office premises are shut down and locked properly after everyone has left. In any case, there should always be physical security present if possible, or at least CCTV surveillance. The checklist should also put forward points such as –Do the security personnel work in alternating shifts? Is the system such that the gap between one guard leaving duty and another taking his/her place minimal? Is there a clear identification system at all points for the guards?
15. Stairwells and stairs themselves should be part of the checklist. The checklist should ask if the stairs and walkways are maintained properly and the flooring is in good condition to avoid incidents of people tripping and falling. The inspection should also check if the hand railings of the stairways are properly secured and are present in every stairway.
16. The flooring of the office is another important part of the checklist. The checklist must ask questions regarding the general condition of the floors- are there cracks, damp spots, snags in carpeting, etc, that could be potentially harmful to people walking? Is the flooring slip-resistant and are carpets places properly to avoid slippage? It must also be ensured that dangerous substances such as oil, grease and even water are not spilled across floors, stairs and walkways.
17. Another component of workplace security inspection must include checking the pantry/cafeteria zone as well. Places where food, raw material and supplies of such kind are stored, should be inspected thoroughly according to the checklist, for cleanliness, hygiene. Alongside, wherever employees may be eating, it should also be checked to ensure the absence of hazards such as rodents, fungus due to leftover food, etc. Eating and food storage areas should be inspected regularly to maintain hygiene and see that they are clean at all times. (We have written a related article - WORKPLACE SECURITY AWARENESS: Everything You Need To Know in Implementing Workplace Security Awareness Policy)
18. Apart from storage of hazardous materials, general storage should also come under the checklist. Are the cupboards and storage cabinets in good condition, with door hinges functioning properly? The sturdiness of storage cabinets should also be checked and ensured that each storage facility contains materials of weight and type, which is meant to be stored in it.
19. The checklist must ask if every item to be stored has an appropriate demarcated spot to be stored in. The storage space should be adequate, not overloaded or overstuffed and not underutilized either. It is equally important to check if the stored material is secured in place to prevent it from slipping, sliding or shifting and consequently spilling out of storage the moment it is opened.
20. Additionally, the checklist must ask if the storage areas are kept clean and free of unnecessary or waste items. The storage must also be organized categorically, which the checklist must ensure.
21. In case of high storage spaces and cabinets, the checklist must ensure that heavy items are not stored at the top as they may fall directly on the head, arms or shoulders of employees and cause injury. Heavy items should be stored at lower height levels for safety. In case the shelves are very high, the checklist must ask what means the company has provided for employees to access such spaces, and if the means are safe.
22. It must be ensured that racks of any sort are arranged carefully so that they don’t have the risk of falling over and causing damage. Fragile items such as those made of glass and breakable material should be kept in secure, immovable spaces.
23. The next aspect a workplace security inspection checklist must cover is lighting and ventilation. Other than parking lot lighting, office lighting is also important. Employees need different kind of lighting for differing purposes, so the checklist must ask about the quality of bulbs used in the offices, particularly over the workstations- is the light LED, and if so, what is the saturation level, and so on. It must be ensured that the lights are all functioning well, not flickering and not going out without reason. The fittings of the lights should also be checked under the inspection. The checklist should ask about reflective glare caused by any lights and also about the maintenance of cleanliness of bulbs and lights.
24. The checklist should inspect the level of ventilation in the office space. Is there enough balance between the air conditioning and/or fans inside and the fresh air outside? Is there enough natural lighting entering the space? The checklist must also ask about the temperature control of the office- whether there is a central system that governs air conditioning/heating and other factors such as humidity, movement of air, and so on.
25. Another necessary aspect to check on is the presence, use and maintenance of electrical equipment in the office. It should be checked that all cables, cords, extensions, sockets etc are in good condition- not torn or exposed. The checklist should ensure that all switches and switchboards are in perfect working condition and none of the switches cause electrical shock or static. It must be checked whether all electrical equipment such as computer systems and other machinery are in good condition and have been maintained as per regulations.
26. For the safety of utility staff who assist with transportation of goods, machines etc, the checklist must ensure that all equipment used to lift/carry/transport are in top condition and are not likely to fall apart. It should also ask that the staffs that use such equipment are adequately trained to do so.
27. The checklist should define the top parameters based on which equipment may be tagged and reported as faulty. It should check if there is such a system in place to report faulty equipment, and if so, what the process for the same is.
28. In terms of appliances and equipment, it is also necessary for the checklist to raise points about the maintenance and cleaning of electronics such as the refrigerator, microwave, kettle, coffee machine, if these are available in the pantry/cafeteria. It should be checked that such appliances are cleaned regularly and are in good working condition.
29. When equipment is considered, it should be checked if items such as photocopiers, printers, shredders, laminators, etc are kept in good condition and are preferably located a bit away from the workstations to avoid disturbing the employees as they work. Additionally, the checklist should question if sound-protection from noisy machinery or equipment is being used by the office. It should be checked that employees are aware of the correct procedures to use such equipment.
30. With regards to facilities for the staff, there must be a separate section in the checklist. The checklist must ask if the washrooms are adequate in number as per the number of employees and that these washrooms are kept clean. The cleanliness standards of the washrooms should be checked with respect to the kind of thorough cleaning that should be done, and the quality of material used for cleaning.
31. It should be checked that the flow of water in the flush of the toilets, in the taps and handheld showers, is proper and regular, and that hot and cold water taps are marked distinctly. The checklist should include questions about the presence of proper disposal bins and sanitary napkin disposal machines as well. It should be checked that waste in bathroom dustbins is cleared regularly.
32. The checklist should enquire about the presence of a well-stocked first-aid kit in the office premises, preferably one in each separate part of the office. The first-aid kit should contain at least the minimal required items such as antiseptic, surgical tape, cotton wool, anti-inflammatory cream, etc., if not, more specialized medicine. The contents of this medical box should be refreshed as and when required and items stocked when needed.
33. Additionally, all employees should have easy access to emergency contact numbers in case further medical assistance is required. The contact information of responders should be displayed in prominent locations and definitely on the first aid kits themselves. Training should also be provided to employees on what to do in case someone requires medical aid, which should be confirmed by the checklist.
34. It is necessary for the checklist to enquire about the fire extinguishers placed in and around the office. There should be one extinguisher per distinct area and the checklist should ensure that these are in working conditions, are tested regularly for functioning, and that all employees are aware of how to use these if the time comes. Alongside, fire alarms and signs must also be tested out regularly to ensure their functionality.
In case of an emergency, do employees have a fixed evacuation plan allotted for them? Is this plan, along with charts and simple instructions, available in different sections of the office for the employees to peruse? These are factors the checklist must include. The checklist must also ask if evacuation drills are performed from time to time to train the staff, and how frequently these are performed. (We have written a related article - 25 Workplace Security Tips For Employees)
36. Also important to check is the re-entry process after an evacuation drill. Employees need to be aware of exiting as well as entering the office correctly after such a situation. The checklist needs to ask about this process as well.
37. The workstations and seating arrangements for employees is also an important part of security inspection. The checklist can ask questions regarding the height of the work desk, the comfort and quality of the chairs provided, whether the chairs are adjustable and revolving in nature, etc. Further, points can be raised about the amount of space each desk offers and whether that space is enough for the tasks to be done.
38. Spacing of the workstations also concerns spacing around and between the desks. Do the employees have reasonable space to move around without dashing into something and potentially hurting themselves? On the other hand, the checklist should also focus on whether there is any unused space which can be utilized better.
39. The list must confirm if there is enough storage space with each workstation. Additionally, it must see if the drawers, cabinets and bins are arranged properly and not in such a way that they obstruct movement or take up too much space. There should be a waste bin with each desk space, and it should be emptied on the regular.
40. It will be useful if the checklist asks additional questions about the optimization of the workstation- whether document holders and similar items are present, and if employees have been briefed on organizing their desk spaces well.
41. The checklist should also deal with housekeeping facilities and competence. It should be checked that staff members who work for housekeeping work regularly to keep the workplace tidy and in aesthetic condition. The checklist should also see if housekeeping staff are aware of basic rules and regulations, such as what cleaning material to use on which surface, avoiding disturbance of employees’ personal belongings on their desk, etc.
42. Security is also concerned with the well-being of the employee, both mental and physical. Thus, the checklist must have points regarding whether the computer is located at an appropriate distance from the employee when at the desk, whether anti-glare is used, if the height and angle of the screen is optimized, etc. The height and positions of the chairs should be adjustable, as should the monitor of the screen.
43. When it comes to inspecting internal and personal security, the checklist must ask if employees are aware of such norms as code of conduct, what constitutes personal and professional violation, sexual and racial discrimination, and so on. Detailed documentation must exist on all these grounds, along with procedures on how to complaint or raise an issue if an employee faces any of this at work.
44. Since security also entails taking care of the employee’s personal well-being and ensuring that they have complete peace of mind at the workplace, the checklist may include the provision of mental health avenues for employees. For example, is there a part-time counsellor or therapist who comes in once or twice a week to provide mental support and guidance to employees? Is there a game/recreation room in the office to help employees unwind?
45. The checklist should ask if regular feedback is taken from the employees on their perceptions of how safe and secure they feel at the workplace. Are employees asked to submit anonymous feedback on whether they find cyber and physical security measures adequate? Do they find the workplace a safe and nurturing space to grow professionally and personally?
46. Cyber security is an increasingly important component of workplace safety now. It can be easy for hackers and malicious intentioned persons to break into the organization’s network, so the inspection checklist must outline factors that safeguard against such a security breach. The checklist must ask if there are strong firewalls in place, blocking outsider entry into the company network. It should be enquired if the company has a cloud based control system in place; as such a system is the best protection against external threats.
47. Employees should also be trained to be wary of how they share information online, such as verifying if a certain person sent an important email, not opening suspicious websites or links, and so on. The checklist should also ask if any instances of unauthorized access or attempts of such access are reported immediately and taken action against. It should also be checked what such preventive/protective action entails.
48. It should include points about employee training and orientation on various fronts. For example, are new employees trained on their job and assigned a mentor to guide their progress? Is there a specific set of guidelines pertaining to employee orientation and on-the-job training, and if so, is this document readily accessible and available to all? When an employee is assigned a new job role or responsibility, is fresh training carried out for their growth as well? The checklist should ask if new employees are briefed on everything about the company, their specific job roles, the company culture, prospects of growth, policies such as attendance, hierarchy, dress code, etc. There must be a separate training session for every new task, role and position in the company as well as an orientation every time new technology, equipment/ processes are introduced that the employees are going to use.
49. One of the most important elements of security is transparency and flow of information within the system and a solid wall blocking the contents of this system from external threats. Thus, the checklist should confirm if the designated people within the organization, such as IT and security department, are able to access the security and surveillance (cyber and physical) system required. On the other hand, the system must be sealed tight so that outsider breach is prevented and at worst, detected and combated as quickly as possible.
How can cyber security be further enhanced in a large organization? To protect their data from malicious intruders, employees are encouraged to create strong, customized passwords with symbols and numbers, avoid writing down security keys and such passwords, check email IDS carefully before sending important info and store flash drives, etc in locked spaces.
What measures can employees take to safeguard themselves further at work? It is suggested that employees be alert and practise the buddy system when working late at night, particularly in lonelier areas such as the parking lot. Employees should keep their ID cards with them at all points, should never give out personal info and should report any suspicious activity.
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