Gender, ethnicity, and the nature of the job of a security officer increase the risks that the profession has in exposure to the coronavirus, suggests new analysis.
The Office for National Statistics published data in May revealing that security officers have one of the highest death rates from Covid-19 – 45.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
A report commissioned by Corps Security from Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International analysed the ONS data and found a number of reasons that accounted for the profession being most vulnerable to risk.
One of the reasons that makes security personnel more susceptible to the virus is ethnicity. The report states that not all groups in the UK have been affected by Covid-19 equally and ethnicity appears to be a significant risk factor.
Nearly a third of security officers are from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and vulnerability is linked to genetic, social and economic factors. Within this group, Black Africans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis appear to be particularly vulnerable and they are over-represented among security officers.
Older people also appear to be more vulnerable to Covid-19 compared with their younger counterparts and experience less favourable outcomes, according to the report. Analysis of licences issued by the Security Industry Association (SIA) in 2019 suggests that those obtained 21 per cent over 55 years of age, compared with the UK average for all occupations of 19 per cent of the workforce in that age group. Yet 42 per cent of those with a manned guarding licence were issued to those over 55.
More men than women have been affected by Covid-19 and because about 90 per cent of security personnel are men, the risk factor for the sector overall is higher than occupations with a lower proportion of males.
Low-paid occupations were found to have the highest rates of death involving Covid-19 and frontline security is typically low-paid.
The role of security officers generally involves proximity and frequent interactions with others, and this was found to be a significant risk factor for contracting Covid-19, although it is not known whether security officers generally worked in a similar way in the crisis.
However, their risk factor relating to exposure was not rated as high as healthcare personnel. The level of virus found in healthcare settings is far greater than among the general public yet death rates for healthcare staff are lower than for security officers.
The very nature of the role of security officers influences their risk to Covid-19, the report states. Being a frontline key worker may mean encountering conflict when trying to enforce Covid-19 guidelines and this can make social distancing more difficult.
Personnel also have to touch equipment and technology others have handled on a regular basis and may find it difficult to ensure that they carry out frequent handwashing.
Many security roles are located in big cities and some of these, particularly in London, the Midlands and South East have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19, affecting the vulnerability of those working there.
Martin Gill, director of Perpetuity Research and one of the report’s authors, said: “The true picture is complex, with some risk factors almost certainly interrelated, may still be emerging, or even not yet identified. What does seem clear though from this preliminary research is that gender, ethnicity, the nature of the job have all been seen to increase risks and these are all characteristics of security officers.”
The report can be found here.