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CCTV operator shifts impact performance

by Andy Clutton

Kerry Jones

According to Kerry Jones, co-founder and director of Professional Surveillance Management (PSM), 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.

“It’s traditional and commonplace for CCTV security operations to work 12-hour shifts,” says Kerry. “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 nine 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.”

Kerry is backed up by UK government guidance on designing CCTV control rooms. Human factors in CCTV control rooms: A best practice guide, 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 eight-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).

“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.”

“We don’t want an operator working [at PSM] 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 Secured by Design ‘Police Preferred’ specified and NSI Gold accredited company more efficient and effective in the service of its clients.

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