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Regulator highlights public safety risks due to lack of security officers' training in Australia
A lack of consistency in licensing, poor training and variable standards of teaching safe restraint techniques among Australian security officers are putting members of the public at risk

Poor quality training, poor literacy and numeracy skills and inadequate
supervision were some of the areas for concern highlighted by ASQA

A lack of consistency in licensing, poor training and variable standards of teaching safe restraint techniques among Australian security officers are putting members of the public at risk, according to a report by the national training regulator in Australia. The report reflects officer training and licensing challenges that are common worldwide.  

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) review of vocational training in the security industry was partly prompted by the concerns of coroners about deaths during restraint or intervention by security staff, especially around licensed premises. “These coroners’ reports raise significant public safety issues and suggest that a number of training and assessment issues are potentially contributing factors to fatalities,” the report’s executive summary says.

According to ASQA, contributing factors to the number of fatalities are poor quality training and assessment, security personnel with poor literacy and numeracy skills, inadequate supervision of newly licensed security officers, differences in licensing requirements among states and territories, and the dangers of restraint which are not being adequately addressed. Concerns about the security industry, including the adequacy of training, have been “longstanding and persistent,” says the report.

Key findings of the review:

  • Inconsistent licensing requirements among states and territories lead to people crossing borders to obtain licenses in jurisdictions with fewer requirements. There is also a lack of specification in the training package.

  • While the qualifications for security personnel are national, state and territory regulation of security licensing makes it more difficult to ensure consistency.

  • Extremely short training courses don’t allow people to gain the required skills and competencies, potentially compromising public safety.

  • The training package of security qualifications needs “significant review” to address issues of content and structure.

  • Until inconsistent licensing is resolved, potential security staff will continue to travel to those states and territories where licensing has fewer requirements.

There are several other findings, too. No assessment is carried out in the workplace. The qualifications needed for security officers need to be accurately aligned to their job roles. Greater “strategic engagement” between ASQA and the licensing authorities is required, so that training providers of concern receive greater regulatory scrutiny.

Out of 67 registered training organisations audited for the review, 81% did not comply with at least one of the training standards. Non-compliance ranged from relatively minor issues that were quickly rectified to “very serious shortcomings.” Those non-compliant organisations were given 20 working days to respond. After that period, 85% were fully compliant with all the standards required for registration, but 15% still did not comply with at least one of the standards.

The ASQA review made eight recommendations to improve training and assessment standards for security officers
Out of 67 registered training organisations audited for the ASQA review, 81% did not comply with at least one of the training standards

Security training and licensing recommendations

The ASQA review made eight recommendations that can be summarised as follows:

  • The training package developer – in consultation with licensing authorities and the security industry – should “progress as a priority” a review to ensure that qualifications meet the requirements for relevant security activities, and provide a single set of qualifications for use in all jurisdictions.

  • The training package developer should explore options for a mandatory component of workplace assessment, and specify what can occur online and what can’t. The developer must also specify the conditions that must be met for assessment in a simulated workplace, when the assessor must be present with the student for assessment, and assessor requirements including qualifications, experience, knowledge of the language and literacy and numeracy.

  • The Standards for Training Packages specify the “minimum amount of training benchmark” with appropriate variations (such as those who already have relevant and recent security experience).

  • When reviewing the Certificates II and III in Security Operations, the training package developer includes explicit detail about the language, literacy and numeracy demands of each role.

  • The training package developer reviews the units of competency about restraints and restraint techniques, in order to address key safety issues. Licensing authorities should include as mandatory the most appropriate units of competency relating to restraints and the safe use of restraint techniques, and that they require all relevant current security licensees to refresh their knowledge of safe restraint techniques before renewing their licenses.

  • Training package developers should ensure safety and quality issues are urgently addressed and that they give priority to the scheduling of training product development, once the Standards for Training Packages have been amended.

  • The Australian Industry Skills Council should ensure that the training packages have incorporated the recommendations in this report.

  • ASQA’s chief commissioner should write to the Council of Australian Governments Law, Crime and Community Safety Council about the outcomes of this review, and the imperative to implement the recommendations about inconsistent licensing requirements.

“Of major concern is that the issues identified have been longstanding and persistent and resistant to a number of efforts to address them,” the report concludes.

“Therefore, the recommendations for action arising from this review seek to confront and resolve the issues through concerted action that will require collaboration and involvement by ASQA, jurisdictional licensing authorities, the training package developer, and (in the case of systemic national training system issues) all training package developers, as well as RTOs [registered training organisations].

“What is clear is that initiatives in individual jurisdictions—as well as efforts by licensing authorities to agree and implement minimum competency standards—have not been sufficient to resolve the concerns. A coordinated national response is required.”

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