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FSA On SIA

by msecadm4921

Having spoken to Ray Clarke on training in a self-regulated market he mentioned Stefan Hay, head of the Fire and Security Association (FSA) as being on record regarding this matter. I recently caught up with Stefan and asked him to elaborate, Una Riley writes.

Stefan started by saying: “There can be no doubt, that the rationale behind the inclusion of the SIA on the list of public bodies that may be abolished is flawed. Baroness Henig must be applauded for her recent eloquent defence of the SIA and her well-structured attack on the government’s lack of research and consultation with the security industry, during the second reading of the highly contentious Public Bodies Bill in the House of Lords on November 9, 2010. For many years, the security industry campaigned tirelessly, as did many politicians, for regulation to be introduced and it is evident that the SIA has made a huge impact on the industry and society as a whole by removing elements of criminality and illegality from the sector, so to quote Baroness Henig, when she was referring to industry stakeholder opinion, I am, like other stakeholders, ‘baffled’ by the government’s decision. This comes from a background of having been actively involved with the SIA from the start and having worked on its core competency specification committees, ACS [approved contractor scheme] project group and having been consulted on other key issues. In my opinion, the SIA has been responsible for a significant improvement in those industries grouped into the ‘manned security services’ category namely, security officers, door supervisors and wheel clampers. However, we, at the FSA, also feel that mistakes were made early on and certain voices were ignored. As a consequence the security systems industry was wrongly caught up in licensing when Remote Video Receiving Centre (RVRC) personnel were suddenly required to hold a CCTV operator’s licence. It must be pointed out at this stage, that although security systems installers were included in the original White Paper on regulation, they were not included in the private security act. In an extract from the House of Lords Hansard of December 18, 2000, the then minister responsible explains the government’s reason for not so doing: "The noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Windlesham, asked about the position of alarm installers and why, when there had been clear reference in the White Paper to the need to regulate that sector of the industry, we, as a government, have since had a rethink. We take the view that that sector is already well regulated. It already has to meet high police and insurance standards and purposes. Also, it consists of many small businesses. As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, it would be unreasonable and perhaps unfair to squeeze out those small operators. We do not want to do that through what may accurately be described as disproportionate over-regulation." Naturally the FSA fully concurs with this statement. Currently, we have members who employ personnel that require a licence, the FSA wants an opportunity to be properly consulted on the future of licensing and, therefore, represent the needs of its members. Our view is, that if the SIA is abolished, government backed regulation and licensing of manned security services remains the only way forward and a deregulation leading to a return to ‘self regulation’ would be a disastrous step backwards. The FSA approached the Security Alliance requesting that it be invited to the table of what is now being described as an ‘umbrella body’ and we are pleased that in the spirit of cooperation, transparency and inclusiveness the invitation has arrived, especially as we will be contributing a very objective view.”<br><br>Systems sector <br>I reminded Stefan one of the reasons the FSA was started was to ensure that we (systems sector) were not licensed further through ‘crawl and sprawl’ after the RVRC episode and the pending ‘consultancy’ licensing that threatened the entire security systems sector. I strongly believe that the formation of the FSA was instrumental in having that area of licensing deferred. We discussed the issue at length and Stefan went on to say why in his view the security systems sector should not be licensed. “The history of the design, installation, commissioning, maintaining and monitoring of electronic alarms is long and firmly rooted in the electrical and now electronic based technical professions covered by the building services engineering sector, which has its own full sector skills council, which is SummitSkills. Recently, Mike Cahalane of the Association of Security Consultants (ASC) reminded me, that on October 27, 1852, a design by inventor Augustus Pope was filed for a US patent. The patent covered the “improvement in electro-magnetic alarms that gave an alarm in case of ‘burglarious attempts to enter a building’ through a door or a window”. Certainly when the FSA’s parent body the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) was formed in 1901, many of its early electrical contracting members were experimenting with early prototype systems. In Mike’s online published book (A History of the UK Intruder Alarm Industry 1852-2004) he explains that the real driver for the development of the security systems industry in the UK can be traced back to the need to enhance the protection of business premises in the City of London where insurers were experiencing increasing losses through burglary. The oldest ‘burglar’ alarm company in the UK was thought to be Thomas Gunn Limited, a firm of electrical contractors founded 1907. It is believed that systems were assembled on site and designed for the specific premises. Insurers promoted these systems for high value theft-attractive risks and they proved successful in reducing claims. Thus, the insurance industry became a prime mover in the growth of the security systems industry and continues to play an important role. With such a history and pedigree, it can come as no surprise that the UK security systems industry is proud of both its status and position in the security industry, but it can also point to the fact that it is also an integral part of the building services engineering sector, which covers the design, install, commissioning, monitoring and maintenance of everything from general electrical supply to data communications, audio visual equipment, building controls, solar, micro generation and other renewable technologies and of course the more closely aligned fire systems.”<br><br>As a former owner of a security systems company I can attest to the fact that the sector belongs to one of the most heavily regulated, standardised and controlled industries in the UK. Stefan went on: “Contractors in the electrical building services engineering sector in England and Wales, (Scotland has its own regulations and variations), must adhere to the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations, Part L of the Building Regulations, the WEEE Regulations, the Work at Heights Regulations, a plethora of British and European Standards, which cover every aspect of design, installation, commissioning, monitoring and maintenance of every system, against which they are inspected and third party certificated by the sector’s certification bodies such as the NSI, SSAIB and ECA Certification. A very high number of security systems companies have ISO 9000 and ISO14000 as well as quality platforms such as Investor in People (IiP) and health and safety certification. They also adhere to the policies and protocols issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Furthermore, the industry is currently subjected to around 30 pre-qualification schemes and about 105,000 operatives (including security systems installers) hold an ECS (Electrotechnical Certification Scheme) card. The ECS is the sole ID and competence card scheme for electrotechnical operatives in the UK, and is recognised and endorsed by the industry. Holding an ECS card means operatives can prove their identity, their qualified status and their occupation when working on-site. It is affiliated to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). So when clients say that operatives need a CSCS card – this card is the one that’s relevant to the security systems industry.” <br><br>I interjected and informed Stefan that even I had an ECS card! Stefan made a humorous comment and went on: “It must also be said, that the incidents of criminality in the security systems industry are so few, that it is difficult to find anything that would seriously taint it, which is proof that the industry is one with a reputation of quality and compliance and certainly doesn’t need any more regulation. It also means that the FSA can concentrate on more immediate issues such as the lack of a structured training and qualification framework for security systems installers and the resulting future skills shortage and in delivering excellent technical support and benefits and services to its members that add genuine value to their business, especially in these bleak economic times.” The times are certainly changing but it may be for the better if with all this upheaval it can result in a more defined and stronger industry. Unlike Margaret Thatcher, I hope that David Cameron is one for turning on the subject of the SIA. I believe more than ever that the government should have a unified approach to tackling organised crime and the SIA could be a vital part of a new government super ‘Home Office Umbrella Organisation’ which could include relative agencies such as the UK Border Agency and the new National Crime Agency working to crack organised crime. A disbanding of the SIA would send out a signal to those who would take advantage of the security brand for criminal pursuit and the wrong message to security professionals working within it.

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