Thursday, July 5, 2012

Security or Safety

Protection and assurance; must we choose between them?

A peer at LinkedIn observes that Security and Safety are not complimentary disciplines.  

"I find the level of incongruity and degrees of mutual exclusivity inherent in the cultural, operational and functionalities of these two separate and divergent disciplines very frustrating."

My (somewhat revised) reply:

My experience differs from yours. Over the years I've worked on teams that combined both, I've administered both - directly and indirectly, and I've collaborated with safety peers in other segments of the management matrix. In my experience security and safety are complimentary disciplines. At several former employers and a variety of clients the two teams work hand in glove on issues of business assurance. This makes good sense to me as we are both in the protection business. Security protects people from the actions of others; safety protects people from harm due to hazards in the work environment. And we both respond to some of the same emergencies and liaise with similar public emergency service agencies.

In the past safety has enjoyed an advantage when it comes to funding and authority because they must first comply with a scientifically derived set of health and safety regulations. Security, having resisted the development and application of mandatory standards until recently, and which still struggles to justify the ROI calculation, has had to sell its programs differently. This challenge may be the fault of security leadership professionals, many of whom which have been slow to adopt a business orientation and failed to embrace the concept of dynamic risk. Many security managers, especially those who are reflexively risk averse, complain about being misunderstood when it may be they who have not taken the time to understand precisely how they can best forward the interests of the organization rather than simply “making sure nothing bad happens.”

Beyond the collaboration of security and safety disciplines I look forward to the integration of security - logical and physical, safety, environmental, compliance, audit, insurance, and perhaps even legal, under the Enterprise Risk Management model. If we in security do not find a way to be recognized as contributing to the bottom line we will forever be regarded as a regrettably necessary expense, and forever subject to the bean counters looking for ways to make the quarterly numbers and the procurement agents who think of our many services as an undifferentiated commodity best purchased for as little as possible.

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