How to Manage Outside Contractors

Jan. 31, 2012
Do your building security policies and procedures account for outside contractors, such as cleaning crews, maintenance technicians, and construction crews? Guard against crimes committed by outsiders by requiring contracts, involving tenants, and measuring performance.

If you have issues with personal property or laptops disappearing from your facility, it’s time to review your building security policies and procedures. Do they account for outside contractors, such as cleaning crews, maintenance technicians, and construction crews? Guard against crimes committed by outsiders by requiring contracts, involving tenants, and measuring performance.   

1) Require a Contract
Managing an outside contractor begins with the contract, says William M. Besse, vice president of consulting and investigations with Andrews International, a security services provider.

“The contract should include the policies and procedures that you expect the contractor to follow,” he continues. “This puts contractors on notice at the start of the relationship, making it clear that their personnel may not roam freely and someone will be watching. This is key to managing cleaning crews, maintenance technicians, construction contractors, and other outsiders that come into the building.”

“The owner or property manager will ultimately define the terms of the interaction, but a security services provider can provide advice designed to help make sure that a program has all the necessary pieces,” adds James C. Taff, president and chief operating officer of Premier Security Corporation and vice chair of the ASIS International Security Services Council.

2) Include Written Provisions
Many contract provisions will depend on unique elements of the property and the individual contractor. Some standard provisions, however, could lay out policies on background checks, uniforms, identification badges, substitutes, service entrances, key management, and locked and propped open doors. Contracts should include:

  • Background checks:  “Most owners, property managers, and tenants carefully screen prospective employees,” says Besse. “You should take the same care with the employees of outside contractors and require background screening for all personnel. Conduct spot-checks by asking your contractor for a couple of background reports on a regular basis. Don’t forget to ask to see certifications or licenses for maintenance technicians and other skilled service providers.”
  • Uniforms: While it isn’t always possible, Besse recommends that contractors wear some kind of uniform that identifies them as a contractor.
  • Identification badges: “Most buildings establish procedures to sign people in and out and gain access to the freight elevators,” says Taff. “We also like to see photo ID on regular contractor personnel. If a contractor comes in just for a day, we’ll typically provide a color-coded day badge with a date stamp.”
  • Service entrances: “Ideally, contractor personnel will come in through a specified side entrance,” Taff says. “Contractors that only come occasionally could enter through a service entrance at the loading dock.”
  • Key management: “Set up a system to manage key rings for cleaning and other services that need regular after-hours access to offices,” says Taff. “You might require the supervisor to check out the keys and leave a driver’s license. Advanced key management systems secure key rings in a container. A biometric identifier like a fingerprint or hand scan will release the lock that holds the keys assigned to individuals. If the keys aren’t returned, you’ll know who took them.”
  • Propped doors: Taff suggests setting a propped door policy up front, noting that custodians often unlock tenant spaces and leave the doors propped open while inside. Employees working late on other floors would then have access to that tenant’s space.

3) Involve Tenants
Whether it’s for network maintenance or equipment servicing, tenants often hire their own outside contractors.

“Owners should establish policies and procedures for tenants to use in managing outside contractors that reflect the building’s overall policies,” says Besse. 

It’s a good idea for tenants to see that those policies, procedures, and performance metrics appear in contracts. At the very least, tenants should make clear to contractors that their personnel must abide by all building policies and procedures while in the building.

Since 1995, Mike Fickes has contributed over 200 security articles to publications covering hotel, industrial, office, retail, critical infrastructure, and education. His interests include security management, policies, strategies, and technologies.

4) Measure Security Performance
Use contracts to not only evaluate a contractor’s performance but evaluate how well they followed security protocol. Were any doors propped open? Did personnel wear appropriate uniforms and display photo ID badges? Task a security officer to observe and record how well or poorly a contractor abides by the building’s policies and procedures.

“This is a way for security to contribute to building quality — by monitoring the work of outside contractors,” Besse says. “It is also the way to follow through on the contract negotiations that first set the policies and procedures that manage the relationship. You will show that there are consequences for both good and bad performances.”

While security officers can insist that policies and procedures be followed, owners and building managers ultimately make the decisions to enforce protocol when a contractor goes astray.

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