Security firms work with a variety of contracts when offering their services. Certain clients may bring their own contracts to the table, or firms may offer a selection of contract templates for various popular security jobs. When creating or negotiating contracts, firms have many opportunities to help mitigate risks, help clarify terms, and generally avoid future issues.

While it’s common practice in the security guard industry for guard firms to sign their client’s contract, if you (the guard firm) are in the position to have your contract signed, here are tips to improve the contract.

Have Separate Contracts for Observing vs. Engaging

While many of our discussions on liability and risk focus on security guards who take action, there is another kind of guard position – those who are hired to be present and observe, but not to take any action. Guards who only observe can note crimes or shady actions, and serve as professional witnesses later on, but they are rarely armed and generally don’t work as bodyguards or bouncers. Contracts for observational guards (whose work doesn’t involve as much risk) should be different than contracts for guards who are instructed to engage if necessary. Clearly lay out what the guards will and will not be able to do so everyone understands what to expect.

Make the Boundaries of the Contract Clear – No Extra Tasks

Sloppy security contracts and less-than-careful clients can lead to scope creep: Guards get assigned to tasks that weren’t specifically spelled out and often don’t have anything to do with guarding at all. Some clients, for example, may expect security guards to serve as chauffeurs, help carry supplies, or assist employees in locking up at night, etc. These tasks aren’t meant for security guards, guards aren’t usually compensated for them, and in many cases, guards don’t have the proper training. Make it clear in the contract that guards will be responsible for the tasks laid on in the contract, and nothing more.

Clearly State What the Contract Covers

This is the part of a contract template with a lot of blank spaces, and it’s hard to go into too much detail here. Strictly describe what guards will be doing and answer all important questions about the job. How many guards will be assigned? What times will they show up and depart? What exact address and property will they be responsible for? Who or what is the client that the firm will be working with directly? Getting all these details correct will help to counter any liability issues or potential lawsuits that may appear later.

Make it Clear the Contract Only Applies to the Client

We see this issue appear sometimes when clients assume that security guards are responsible for things that they cannot be. For example, in a mall shop, the security guard is responsible to the client that owns the shop and their employees, as laid out in the contract. The security guard should not be liable for what happens to customers or delivery people. The security guard should not be liable for damage to mall property as well as client property – and so on. Contracts should spell this out.

Don’t Remove All Client Liability

Some clients may want contracts that absolve them of all liability if something goes wrong, requiring the security firm to cover everything with their own insurance. In general, there are things that clients should always be responsible for themselves, such as injuries caused by client negligence. Make sure these exceptions are carefully defined.

Include Guard Requirements in the Contract

If the client wants any particular guard requirements, they should also be covered in the contract. For example, that could include guards required to have certain kinds of medical training cards, guard licenses, certified training for specific weapons, and so on. Sometimes clients may even want stipulations about guards wearing uniforms and never items of personal clothing. In other circumstances, guards may be required to speak English and greet those entering a building, etc. Putting these requirements into the contract also shows that your firm takes its security guards seriously and pays attention to the details of a job.

List Points of Contact and Supervision Details

When liability issues appear after a security incident, sometimes blame gets put on those involved for not contacting the proper authority (store manager, security manager, supervisor on shift, etc.), not reporting to the right person, or not contacting the client in the right way. It can be very helpful for contracts to include specific positions or people that security guards report to, the right contact numbers to use, and similar information. This can help clarify proper behavior and reduce liability risks if something does happen.

Conclusion: Arrange a Consultation with an Attorney

Even if you’ve been using the same kinds of contracts for years at your security firm, it’s never a bad time for a review. Consider arranging a consultation with an attorney who can help you revise and improve contract templates or specific contracts with large clients. This is a great way to spot risks that you might otherwise not have noticed, as well as getting advice on preventing certain kinds of lawsuits. Plus, your guards will also appreciate the extra clarification!