Samah Ahmed

Assistant editor, IFSEC Global

November 19, 2019

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CCTV operators

CCTV operators should not work 12-hour shifts says monitoring center Director

Monitoring center Director says regular 12-hour shifts have a significant negative impact on CCTV operator health and effectiveness.

Kerry Jones

Kerry Jones

Co-founder and Director of Professional Surveillance Management (PSM), an independent security monitoring center, Kerry Jones says that the cumulative effect of regular 12-hour shifts that CCTV operators do, can have a negative impact on their health and performance at work.

What does a CCTV operator do?

Most CCTV operators in the UK work in a central control room in areas that require 24/7 surveillance cameras such as construction sites, office buildings and other public spaces. They are trained to detect crime or unusual behaviour that could lead to it.

Working long hours can have a damaging impact on CCTV operators. They can experience numerous mental, physical and social side effect. The detrimental impact of the shifts can also affect their performance at work and reduce the effectiveness of their client’s video security system.

Kerry Jones said: “It’s traditional and commonplace for CCTV security operations to work 12-hour shifts. They are usually organised in four days on, four off patterns. At the end of a single 12 hour shift it’s 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 center, 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.”

PSM monitoring center

Human factors in CCTV control rooms: A best practice guide, a publication from the Center 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 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).

“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 using appropriate shift patterns.”

Jones is backed up by UK government guidance on designing CCTV control rooms. She explains that at PSM, it aims to avoid running staff into the ground, by working seven or eight-hour shifts instead of 12. This in turn will makes the company more efficient in the service of its clients.

“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.”

“We don’t overstretch, that’s reflected in our results. We’ve never missed a single 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.”

“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.”

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