Practical advice and best practice guidance on visitor management
What is Visitor Management?
Visitor management is the process of tracking, identifying and welcoming everyone who enters your business or school. A visitor may be a customer, a parent, delivery driver, an official or a contractor. Essentially, anyone who is not a regular full-time employee is a visitor.
Why is Visitor Management important?
A good place to start is to ask yourself some basic questions – how many visitors are in your building right now? How many yesterday?. What about 10th July 2017? And if you don’t know the answer, why does it matter?
With the advent of COVID 19, it’s become very clear how important visitor tracing is. However, even pre-COVID, there are obvious scenarios where you need to determine who was on site during a specific timeframe - maybe something was stolen, maybe someone was injured or maybe a contaminate got into your production process.
Whether you are a school or a business you don’t want a visitor simply wandering into and around your building. Even if you have access control measures such as keycards, these can be easily circumvented by someone holding the door open for a stranger. Having a visitor badge helps you identify legitimate visitors and unauthorised personnel on site. A visitor ID badge should include a date, the person they are visiting and ideally a photo.
Legal Responsibilities for Visitors:
A business or school owes a duty of care to all their visitors. The duty is covered by both criminal law, the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA) and its related Regulations, or claims for compensation under civil law.
The HSWA places a duty on employers to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that in the course of their activities, persons who are not employees are not put at risk. Visitors should be given information about any hazardous activities taking place in the premises, any safety rules and procedures they must comply with and any steps that should be taken to prevent visitors accessing dangerous areas.
A robust visitor booking in system will fulfil a number of important requirements:
It will record and identify visitors on site – you can’t manage visitor safety if you don’t know who’s on site
It will bring any important safety information to their attention
An ID badge will prevent people accessing off-limit areas
It will provide an emergency roll call in the event of an evacuation . . .
Remember that in addition to evacuating employees in an emergency, your organisation is also responsible for visitor safety and accounting for them once they’ve reached their designated muster point.
A robust visitor management system will act as a real-time evacuation list of all building visitors, so you can take an accurate headcount and alert emergency services if someone is unaccounted for.
A Professional Image
A good visitor management system helps you create a great first impression and ensure you’re promoting the image you want for your business or school. Researchers at Princeton found that we actually form first impressions in about 1/10 of a second, from the moment a customer, parent, job applicant or partner walks into your reception, they are forming that all important first impression. A professional welcome and efficient check-in will be a key positive influence.
All schools and many businesses will want to define and document how they want to manage visitors in a Visitor Policy. This will record some ground rules to avoid confusion or inconsistency in receiving visitors onto site. Some organisations such as schools or food production will have particularly sensitive security needs or hazardous equipment which must be addressed in a visitor management policy.
Visitors and Contractors
A contractor is very different from a normal visitor. They may be allowed in areas which are normally off-limits, they may be performing potentially hazardous jobs and their work whilst on site will probably have a greater impact on operations. In short, a contractor introduces more risk to your business or school and must be treated accordingly when checked in. A good contractor management booking in system will let you know:
- Which contractors are on site and how their work will affect others
- Keep background checks
- Check and document that the appropriate PPE is used
- Make visiting contractors aware of any hazards, safety rules and emergency procedures
- Unique asset code
- Date purchased/received
- Estimated value of item
- Building and room location
- Make and model number
- Order number
- Purchase Price
- Asset Status (e.g. on Loan)
- Serial Number
- Order Number
When new data protection regulations came into effect back in 2018 it had a far-reaching impact on personal data storage, destruction, and handling processes. However, it is estimated that upwards of 52% of companies and schools will still not be fully compliant by the end of this year.
In the race to make workplace databases and IT infrastructure compliant, the visitor booking-in system sometimes gets overlooked. It has been widely circulated that a paper-based visitor signing in book is not compliant and anyone concerned about GDPR would need to move to a software based visitor system. This isn’t true. Although a basic visitor book will not keep your data secure, GDPR compliant visitor books are available, specifically designed to keep visitor information hidden from general display.
Digital Vs Paper
A school or business can choose to manage their visitors using a visitor book or visitor check-in software - usually implemented with a touchscreen interface. Each system is a valid way of booking in visitors, it is just a case of choosing the solution that works well for your business or school and available budget. Whilst a basic A4 sign in sheet will be unlikely to meet your responsibilities for visitor safety, a good visitor book will capture all the required information, be GDPR compliant and look professional – it can even incorporate your own logo/branding. Obviously, a software-based visitor system will do all of this digitally and store all information in a central database, making it easy to access and update.
Visitor Management and COVID-19
Back in March 2020, before the UK had absorbed the full impact of Covid, we initially saw the introduction of no handshake policies when greeting a visitor. However, as the outbreak escalated, businesses and schools were advised to limit visitors wherever they could. The take up of remote meeting tools such as Teams and Zooms has been rapid and largely successful but, in some situations, you can’t replace the face-to-face experience with its digital counterpart.
Today businesses, retailers and schools need to have a plan in place for gradually re-opening their doors to visitors and contractors, many have implemented an "appointment" only visitor policy. They need to ensure their visitor management system provides an accurate, dated visitor contact record to support track and trace. One popular option is the adoption of a contactless visitor management system. By using QR codes the visitor can perform the check-in process using their own mobile phone, including printing an ID badge and receiving any information required for their visit. Their contact data is automatically updated and uploaded back to the central visitor record. This is just one of many measures which can take risk out of having people on site along with a face mask policy, social distancing and increased hygiene.