12 hour shifts have significant negative impact on CCTV operators’ health and effectiveness
Monitoring centre director says regular 12 hour shifts have significant negative impact on CCTV operator health and effectiveness
Kerry Jones of independent monitoring centre PSM says shorter, better managed shifts can benefit staff and improve results for clients
CCTV operators in most UK monitoring centres are working long hours which can prove detrimental to their performance, and reduce the effectiveness of their clients’ video security systems. And the cumulative effect of regular 12 hour shifts can have a negative health impact as well.
That’s the view of Kerry Jones, co-founder and director of Wigan-based independent monitoring centre Professional Surveillance Management (PSM).
PSM is the first remote monitoring CCTV control room company to achieve the Secured by Design ‘Police Preferred’ specification, and also holds Gold accreditation from the National Security Inspectorate (NSI).
“It’s traditional and commonplace for CCTV security operations to work 12-hour shifts,” Jones says. “They are usually organised in four days on, four off patterns. At the end of a single 12 hour shift it’s pretty normal to feel fatigued and unable to focus. That’s the way the human brain works.”
“During a 12-hour shift, the fatigue tends to kick in during that stretch between 9 and 12 hours. For a CCTV operator in a monitoring centre, that can be dangerous, because focus and attention to the information presented to them is the job. If we miss a criminal incident because of fatigue, that means the security system the client is relying on is not working. The operator is the link between the technology and the police. They are a key component of the whole system.”
Jones is backed up by UK government guidance on designing CCTV control rooms. A publication from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, says: “12 hour shifts, although common in many settings, may represent a greater risk to health and performance than 8 hour shifts in terms of higher perceptions of workload, fatigue and stress, risk of more errors and accidents, and higher health risks.”
In addition, the report says: “Research confirms that the interruption of circadian rhythms (the 24 hour natural bodily cycle) by shift work can have a negative impact on both general wellbeing and physical health (short and long term), as well as on performance due to general fatigue (i.e. an increased likelihood of errors).”
“We’ve got a 100% success rate because we have brilliant staff. And I’m convinced that the way our shifts work is a significant contributing factor.”
Kerry Jones – Co-founder PSM
“Shift-patterns are often designed to meet commercial and operational requirements, but serious consideration should be given to minimising negative effects on health and well-being by the use of appropriate shift patterns.”
It’s the way that PSM have always worked, Jones explains.
“At PSM, we don’t want an operator working here for more than nine hours,” she says. “The majority of our shifts cover seven or eight hours, and our operators never work more than four in a row. That means there’s an average of three or four days between each batch of shifts.”
The idea, she says, is to avoid running staff into the ground, and that in turn makes her company more efficient and effective in the service of its clients.
“We don’t overstretch,” Jones emphasises. “That’s reflected in our results. We have never missed one criminal incident. We’ve got a 100% success rate because we have brilliant staff. And I’m convinced that the way our shifts work is a significant contributing factor.”
At PSM there’s a genuine belief in the benefits that this approach offers for all. It’s why they are inviting security installers and integrators to try PSM’s monitoring services free for 30 days, with no contractual obligations.
“We’re a personalised service,” Jones says. “We care about the people who work for us, and we care about our clients. Our approach to shifts allows us to serve our clients better, so there’s an operational and commercial advantage as well. This is an important issue. It’s one we think should be discussed more often in the industry.”