A service occupation is a job that entails rendering services to a person or a company rather than producing a product. Examples of service occupation are; the jobs of a lawyer, salesperson, and security guard, health personnel, cleaner among others. According to the international labor organization, working conditions refers to the factors under which a worker lives and executes his responsibility. These factors include working hours, wages, occupational health and safety, training and the general service welfare. In the service occupations, these factors influence the general outcome of the worker.
One specific service occupation that is affected by the prevailing working condition at the workplace is the occupation of a private security guard. Private security guards provide security to private premises and are owned by private entities. One of the fundamental challenges that are facing many states is the provision of security to the citizens. This situation has been heightened by the emergence of local and international terrorism. The organization and execution of terrorist activities of 9/11 made the United States realize that terrorism and mass execution has come to the United States. (Dempsey, 2008). The realization was that the demand for security has gone beyond what the state can provide.
Private security companies have increased in number due to the demand of security as a result of threats posed by organized terrorism and urban crimes. These firms employ security officers known as guards. These guards have various responsibilities such as responding to an emergency, guarding premises, patrolling, supervision and surveillance. Some of these guards face severe working conditions. They work long hours, they are underpaid, they have few leave days, and their working environment is risky. Most of them are demotivated due to poor pay and suffer from fatigue due to long working hours. The private security guards are usually undertrained, and this puts their lives and that of their clients at risk. They are also underpaid compared to their colleagues in the public sector. This paper seeks to find ways of improving the working conditions of private security guards. The working conditions of concern are; working hours, wages, interaction with clients and the physical working environment
Working hours regulations sets out the maximum working hours per week, the daily resting period and holidays. Security guards all over the world work for long hours. In Kenya for example, security guards work for fifty-two hours per week (Murunga, 2014). In most countries, security guards are required to work for a maximum of 48 hours in a week with additional hours being treated as overtime. However, this is not usually the case. Most guards work for twelve hours and with no resting time. This leads them to take their lunch while on duty. Security guards spend most of their time standing or patrolling their working station. These are energy consuming tasks and coupled with long working hours they lead to fatigue and lack of concentration which in turn affects their service delivery (Murunga, 2014). In Qatar for example, most security guards quit after working for two years. This is as a result of working for long hours with no leave until their contracts expire after two years (Mathew, 2013).
The working hours of security guards can be improved by the management of the private security company. According to ILO, ways of improving the working hours include; setting a limit of working hours and reducing them, allowing for paid annual leaves to workers and providing weekly rest periods. Working hours for security guards should be set to a maximum of 48 hours in a week. This means that a security guard will be able to work for a maximum of 8 hours in a day. In case, 8 hours have been exceeded the management should put up measures that can reduce these working hours without affecting the pay of security guards. One of the measures of reducing working hours is organizing the work such that security guards can work in shifts. In a typical day, there can be a minimum of 3 shifts. One shift can start from 7 am to 3 pm, another can start from 3 pm to 11 pm and a finally from 11 pm to 7 am. Therefore, with organized shifts, security guards will have time to rest hence improve their service delivery. Security guards working hours can also be improved by providing them with daily resting periods. This can be done by guaranteeing them a lunch break of between 30 minutes to one hour. In case security guards work beyond their normal working hours, the extra hours should be treated as overtime and should, therefore, be factored in their remuneration. However, the management should regulate the overtime hours to ensure that they do not exceed the standard working hours. The government can also create regulations on working time for security guards. In the UK, the security industry authority (SIA) has come up with measures to regulate the working hours of security guards. The working hours are limited to a maximum of 48 hours per week. The security guards are also entitled to one day leave per week (Murunga, 2014). In Netherlands for example, security firms are required to submit an annual report to the minister of justice. The report provides details on the normal working hours, overtime hours, leave days, number of workers entering and leaving the firm. The minister has authority to withdraw the license of a firm if he there is any irregularity concerning the standard working hours (Waard, 1999).
Salary refers to what the guard is entitled to gain in the form of remuneration as a result of the services rendered or to be rendered (Murunga, 2014). According, to the universal declaration of human rights, article 23 (3), everybody who works is entitled to a fair and favorable remuneration that can provide for himself and his family. Wages are one of the main working conditions that influence the motivation and job satisfaction of security guards. Security guards all over the world are underpaid compared to their counterparts in the public service. Another problem associated with wages is the delay in payment of wages. Wages can be improved by the management of the security firms in various ways. The management can ensure that the wages of the security guard are paid on time. Workers should be treated as privileged creditors (International Labour Organisation, 1989). They should be paid before any other creditors. Therefore security guards wages can be improved by limiting delays in disbursement of their salary. The management can tackle the issue of low pay by introducing different payment systems. Such systems are; different piece rate systems, merit rating, premium and task bonus systems, profit-sharing and co- partnership schemes (International Labour Organisation, 1989).in the case of security guards, the security firms may incorporate profit sharing scheme. Under the profit sharing, scheme security guards will be able to share in the profits of the firm. This is done by allocating a predetermined percentage of turnover or profit to the employee after a certain period. Introduction of regulatory bodies for security guards can also help improve the wages paid through collective bargaining agreement. In the UK the average pay for security guard ranges from £7:00 – £12.00 an hour. The wages depend on the company and the region. The pay is high in London and Home Counties. Records show that before the formation of SIA (security industry authority) wages for security guards were in the range of £3.60 and £5.93. (Pay Survey: Still A Minimum Wage Sector, 2011)
Apart from wages and working time, another working condition that influences the work of a security guard is the interaction that s/he has with the clients. This interaction can be positive or negative. In most organization, security guards are the first people that customers or visitors interact with when they come to the organization. (Adria Strausbaugh, 2003). Therefore, security guards create the first impression to the customer about the organization. For this reason, security guards should possess several human relation skills that are helpful in their interaction with their clients. They should possess effective communication skills. They should be able to listen to the customer, and they should be able to talk to the customer in a clear and understandable language. Proper human relation skills help to create a positive image for the security firm, security guard and the organization as a whole (Adria Strausbaugh, 2003). These skills can be acquired through proper training of the security guards the training can be offered by the supervisors. The supervisors should ensure that the security guards are trained continuously in the course of their work. Training should focus on what the security guard feel he lacks in his duty. This training should also focus on the philosophy and the history of the organization the security guard will be working for. It should also involve a variety of techniques to ensure that the security guard has understood what he is needed to do at his workplace. In Netherlands, it is a basic requirement that every security guard should have a basic diploma within 12 months of taking up the post (Waard, 1999).
Meanwhile, the environment of a security guard is another working condition factor that influences her/his service delivery. The environment of a security guard is not constant. At one point he may be patrolling a risky neighborhood while at another point in time he may be sitting behind a desk writing daily security reports. The work environment can be too harsh for the security guard to bear. An interview with security guards working for the George Washington Bridge reviewed a lot about their poor working environment. One of the security guards recalled a moment he was almost hit by a suicide jumper falling from 200 feet above. Another complained about the restroom being far away from his working area while a female security guard recalled a moment she locked herself in a booth because she felt threatened by a group of men loitering nearby (Berger, 2017). Meanwhile, in Qatar security guards have been quitting their jobs due to harsh environmental conditions (Mathew, 2013). The work environment can be improved by the chief security officer of the firm by implementing various measures. They can provide working booths for security personnel. The booth should be equipped in such a way that it has heating and cooling mechanisms during winter and summer seasons. If possible, the booth should be bullet proof so as to guarantee the safety of the security officer in a case of a shootout. A restroom can be incorporated in the booth. The working environment can also be improved by providing the security guards with proper equipment. The supervisor should ensure that the equipment is properly maintained and in the case of any faulty equipment they should be replaced. Patrol vehicles should be provided in case the security guards are working in the unfriendly neighborhood. The working environment can also be improved by the security firm by ensuring that the guards have a proper uniform. The uniform should have a suitable color that can help the security guards to blend well with the environment. For security guards working on night shift, they should wear reflector jackets for easier identification. The uniform should also be designed in such a way that it is providing warmth to the security guard during winter.
Private Security Guards provide services that would otherwise be hard for the national government to provide. They supplement the work of public security officers. However, despite their positive impact in the society, they continue to work under poor conditions. Since they are owned by private entities, it sometimes becomes hard to regulate their operations. To improve the working conditions, these firms need to conform to the labor regulations. There is also a need for these security firms to provide adequate training to their staff before deploying them. With proper training, security guards will be able to face different challenges in their line of duty.
There is a direct relationship between the prevailing working conditions of a security guard and his/her service delivery. The working conditions of a security guard that influence service delivery are; working hours, wages, interaction with clients and the general work environment. Much of the work of improving the working conditions of security guards lies with the chief security officer. The chief officer makes major decisions regarding the operation of security firms.
Long working hours without leave days inhibits the service delivery of a security guard. Long working hours lead to fatigue and lack of concentration. However, this situation can be remedied by introducing working shifts and lunch breaks in the workplace.
The issue of poor pay is also another issue that is impacting negatively on the output of security guards. Poor pay leads to demoralized security guards. Their salary situation can be improved by allocating them a percentage of the firm's profit. They can also be paid based on merit so as to encourage them to go an extra mile in the dispensation of their service.
Poor human interaction skills also inhibit the service delivery of security guard in the sense that they are not able to handle clients. With proper training, human interaction skills can be improved.