Like all organisations across the country – and much of the world – DIO has been heavily impacted by Coronavirus and Covid-19. While we were well set up for home working thanks to investment in recent years, there are some members of the team who, unlike most of us, can’t work from home.
I’m specifically talking about the MOD Guard Service (MGS). These security professionals provide a 24-hour, 365 day a year unarmed guarding service on 117 MOD sites – with another 12 sites recently added to the portfolio following the transfer of work and staff from a commercial provider on 1st April. The management and delivery of this transfer was a significant achievement conducted against the COVID-19 backdrop in collaboration with our colleagues at Defence Business Services.
The MGS provides an essential service to the department protecting MOD people, assets and sites. Their responsibilities include processing visitors to site, checking IDs before allowing staff onto site, patrolling, monitoring CCTV and more.
Clearly, these are not jobs which can be done remotely and MGS officers are therefore considered to be key workers. Our primary consideration has been to ensure the safety of the men and women asked to carry out this important role and minimising the risk of infection. Working with local managers and Heads of Establishment, the MGS has implemented an eight-point contingency plan to minimise the effect of reduced numbers and the disruption to service caused by self-isolation, all the while maintaining staff safety and site security.
How we’re protecting MGS guards
Huge numbers of MOD staff are currently working from home, so the number of staff and visitors on sites has dropped enormously. This makes the guards’ role safer in the current circumstances by reducing the number of other people the guards come into contact with, enabling effective social distancing.
A poster is displayed in all MGS guardrooms emphasising the two-metre rule and making clear the expectations placed on all visitors. On some sites perspex screens have been installed to protect staff and visitors. Rotations on posts have been speeded-up to allow staff to wash their hands more frequently. Guards no longer touch passes, with many sites going over to disposable, paper visitor passes.
The MGS stores team in Donnington has worked hard to order and process around 2000 boxes of tissues and 500 bottles of additional hand sanitiser which have been sent out to teams on sites across the country, packing them in 200 parcels for delivery. All of this packing was done in only one day – a great effort by the team to ensure the hand sanitiser and tissues get to where they are needed. Hand sanitiser has been hard to find but the team managed to order some from a gin distillery which has started to create hand sanitiser in their distillery. The downside to this was that the sanitiser was delivered in glass bottles and the stores team have had to pack them carefully to make sure they arrive at their destinations in one piece.
In addition to all of this, before the emergency fully hit, the MGS had been going through reaccreditation for something called Customer Service Excellence (CSE). In late March, the organisation was informed that it had been reaccredited to CSE with 18 Compliance-plus ratings. A welcome boost during a difficult period.
MGS staff, whether guards on the ground, regional managers or Head Office staff, have shown real dedication and flexibility to continue to provide a high-level service. Some have cancelled leave, worked longer hours or changed their shifts at very short notice. They are working in very difficult circumstances to keep Defence operational and are truly the unsung heroes in Defence.