Handle with care: site bosses advised over guard dogs

CONSTRUCTION bosses have been advised to only employ properly qualified dog handlers to help secure sites.

A 2017 survey by the Chartered Institute of Building revealed that 42% of construction workers said theft and vandalism was a monthly occurrence on site. Guard dogs can act as a deterrent to criminals, but Steve Hill, author of the British Standards for security dogs, says it is imperative that site managers ensure handlers have the relevant qualifications.

Steve told Project Scotland, “If someone on a building site is using a forklift, they’ve got to have a licence, so why would you let somebody onto your building site with a dog which is schooled in aggression without a licence?”

“If there was a major incident on a construction site and it went to court, the magistrates, judge or, God forbid, the coroner, would say to the contractor, ‘there is a British standard out there.  You are a professional company, you should have known there is a standard – why didn’t you deploy the dogs to this standard?’ and if the dogs are not compliant to that standard, they could prosecute.”  

 The British Standards HABC qualification is the accolade those employing dog handlers should look out for. It is a lifetime qualification that comes alongside a National Association of Security Dog Users (NASDU) ‘Team Certificate’ – which is effectively a licence but hasn’t been titled as such to avoid confusion with SIA licences.  

Although to many it may be hard to determine whether or not a person is a qualified BS skilled dog handler, or merely someone who has a relatively well-trained dog and fancies themselves as a handler, Steve says there are signs construction bosses should look out for.

 “Effectively, you can’t give an academic qualification to an animal; so, on the HABC certificate it’s the handler’s name, and the handler’s name only.  On the NASDU certificate it will have the handler’s name, the dog’s name and a description of the dog – including the dog’s microchip number so if you wanted to, you could get a microchip reader and double check.

 “Due diligence: only employ companies which are British Standard compliant. Yes, it’s nice that lots of companies say that handlers applying have got to be NASDU registered, but the main thing is they need to be sure whoever they’re contracting is British Standards compliant. In regard to the dogs, any decent dog handler or company would be proud to show you training records – so if a company says they haven’t got the training records as they’re with the handlers, or they can’t let you see them because of data protection… it’s a load of rubbish. They do need to show that they are British standard compliant, and they’ve got the relevant training.”

 It is not just the training of the dog that the British Standards focuses on, but also the welfare of the animal.  Steve says it is fairly uncommon for there to be a kennel placed on construction sites, so more often than not it will be the handler’s vehicle which houses the dog – and this can also be a giveaway to the legitimacy of the person being employed.

 “If someone turns up with a manky old dog in the back of a car seat, you’ve got to ask questions. They should be turning up in a nice vehicle, which has got ventilation, a proper cage with food, water and a well-groomed dog.”

 Steve says that if reasonable steps are taken, construction companies can save themselves legal headaches should an issue arise with security dogs.

 “If an incident does occur, you can say in your defence ‘my due diligence was I ensured they were British Standards compliant and checked their team certificate’. Hopefully the magistrates will say ‘thank you very much, sit down’ and it’s back to the handler not being able to control the dog. You as the client, that’s their protection – so they should be looking that A) the handler is qualified, and B) there is a current team selection in place.”

 With security dogs and handlers presenting such potential headaches, it would be understandable if construction chiefs chose to swerve them all together when planning the safety of their sites. However, Steve insists that they have their benefits.

 “If you’ve got a team going round construction sites thieving, and they’re driving around an area, they see a building that’s got nice security boards up with a warning of guard dogs being on site then they drive down the road and see another construction site with no guard dogs – which one are they going to choose?

“If there’s somebody hiding in the shadows, the security guard likely won’t pick that person up, whereas a dog quite possibly would – as that’s what they’re trained to do.”  

 “Unfortunately, security is often lone working. So, if you’re putting a lone worker on site, what protection for his own welfare does he have? I realise this is the responsibility of the security company, but there is a vicarious liability by the contractor that the security company is doing it. So, if it is a risky site, why put someone there on their own? A dog is also there for the protection of the handler.”