The first thing that was so striking when collecting this research was the diversity of responsibilities and risks that were associated with the different roles a security guard can perform.
An officer whose sole responsibility is to guard a fence on a remote property in the dead of night has a vastly different job to a bouncer who is constantly at risk of violent behaviour and has the unenviable task of ejecting intoxicated patrons who are often under the influence of substances other than alcohol.
While both occupations may have the title of “Security Guard”, the jobs are completely different and the differences in pay (or lack of difference, once you assess the risks) might surprise you.
So what is the worst part of the job?
Overwhelmingly, the answer was boredom. One officer described his job as “nearly having nothing to do, but having enough to do so you couldn’t do anything else”. He is a student studying to be a lawyer and took on the job to be paid to study. He thought it would be possible to find the right security job where he could work at a desk and study his course material while being paid. The reality for him was both contrasting and frustrating because it was so close to the situation he was trying to engineer, but impossible to execute. As soon as he opened his books, he was required to do something on the job. In the end he gave up on this strategy and is working with a clear exit in mind.
Funnily enough none of the bouncers interviewed nominated boredom as the worst part of their job. Their most typical response was having to deal with violence. “Some of the guys we get in here are dangerous, man. They are capable fighters and have bad attitudes. It takes some rough experiences before you learn how to respond and any one of those experiences could injure you badly.”
What were your best experiences?
A number of guards described a concert performed by their favourite band as their ideal gig, or a job watching the crowds at a sporting match. The general opinion is that these events are usually low risk and while you still have to stay alert you can watch the events and be paid to have nearly as good a time as the attendees.
What are your biggest challenges?
No surprise, but a range of answers here. Knowing the boundaries of the law and being measured in your response to a threat was at the top of the list. “You’ve basically gotta be a lawyer to do this job now,” was a phrase expressed by more than one person when asked.
One of the guards was a regular at a hospital and found it increasingly difficult to know how to respond to unpredictable patients on ice. “How do you respond professionally to someone who has lost control of their thought processes and is trying to kill you?” He cited more than one example of Security Guards in Sydney hospitals being charged with offences when they firmly maintain they were acting in self-defence and said that any other response would have put them at more risk.
At the other end of the spectrum, many officers stated their biggest challenge was not becoming too complacent after long periods of dullness and becoming much less effective at their jobs.
The minimum requirements to be a licensed security guard in Sydney varies between sectors but a detailed guide on the training courses and providers can be found at: http://www.securityguide.com.au/Training/NSW/