New safety bill could affect StuCons, Walkhome

University students responsible for keeping the peace may soon need to take a few more steps before they can do their jobs.

A new provincial bill, the Private Security and Investigative Services Act 2005, will mandate that all paid security employees complete additional training and an exam before becoming certified to work. Once passed, the bill will affect two AMS services.

“Bill 159 affects Walkhome and StuCons, and is from the provincial government mandating specialized training for people who deal with any form of security,” said Jenn Hirano, AMS VP (Operations).

David Patterson, director of campus security, said the new legislation is meant to improve security standards and reflect changes in other provinces.

“The purpose of the legislation is to update the previous act that was created in 1966 and to increase the professional standards within the security industry as a whole,” he said.  “Industry groups and organizations consider better training and standards as beneficial, and [it] mirrors legislation undertaken in other provinces.”

According to Hirano, specific details have yet to be disclosed, but the bill will have substantial implications for students working for either service.

“The bill isn’t finalized yet, so the government doesn’t yet know exactly what they’re requiring from people in terms of training,” she said. “We do know it will be roughly 40 hours of instruction followed by an exam at the end.”

Patterson said the legislation was passed on Dec. 15, but specific regulations have yet to be developed.

“We are waiting for the accompanying regulations to be developed by the Provincial Registrar,” he said. “These regulations will be the pivotal points that determine what all security providers must do to comply with the legislation.” Hirano said that although the legislation isn’t expected to take effect until spring 2007, the AMS is already preparing for change.

“We shifted around our director portfolios because of the bill,” she said. “We moved Walkhome into the Food and Safety portfolio, to put Walkhome and StuCons under the control of one person.”

The AMS is also working with University campus security to determine the best way to train new employees. Hirano said that while training courses will probably be offered at community colleges, the AMS hopes to cut costs by doing the training on campus.

“We’re exploring the idea that somebody from campus security will get enough training to certify other people on campus,” she said. “Cost would be significantly reduced if we kept the training in-house.”

Patterson said the University is working to ensure that training practices meet the new provincial standards and that the training is done in a cost-effective manner.

“We are currently watching this very closely and will make the necessary adjustments to ensure we are in compliance with provincial legislation,” he said. “At this point, we are still considering the logistical and budgetary issues to ensure compliance with the new legislation.”

Hirano said that while the AMS could reduce some cost by running their own training, the bill would also require a yearly licensing fee for each employee.

Right now, the AMS manages its own training for the services each September.

However, she said it’s likely that even more training would be necessary.

“StuCons already get quite a bit of training through the AMS, with campus security and the [Kingston] Police,” she said. “But when the government finalizes the guidelines, each group will have to submit a profile of what training they already do, and what else they would need to do,” she said.

Walkhome is currently applying for exemption from the bill, which Hirano said covers a very broad range of services, including club bouncers and all security guards, but excludes anyone who isn’t paid.

“At [Wilfrid Laurier University] they have Foot Patrol, which is similar to Walkhome, but [it’s a volunteer service], so they wouldn’t qualify for training,” she said. “Right now, Walkhome is applying for an exemption because they’re not sure how much this legislation applies to them.” James Northwood, Sci ’08 and Walkhome employee, said he doesn’t think that Walkhome staff needs more training.

“Rookies always walk with veterans for the first four to five shifts, and police checks were done at the beginning of the year,” he said. “What training is needed to fulfill the duties of the Walkhome service that is not already taught?”

Joey Fearon, ArtSci ’06 and another Walkhome employee, said he thinks the staff would benefit from more training.

“Forty hours sounds like a lot, but I would certainly advocate for more training than we get,” he said. “Our purpose is to make people feel safe and comfortable, and I think we could improve on what is covered and to what degree.”

Northwood said he thinks the service will decline in quality without more funding for additional mandatory training. He added that if there were shortcomings with Walkhome, he would support the changes, but he doesn’t think that is the case.

“The employees are currently paid minimum wage,” he said. “But we are paid during hours that we are in formal training, so do the math.”

Hirano said employees would not see any change to their pay.

“Employees do currently make minimum wage, and that wouldn’t change, other than the fact that minimum wage is set to increase next year,” she said.

Despite the potential for more training, Northwood said that he’d still consider working for Walkhome.

“I chose to apply for Walkhome because I love people and I love the outdoors,” he said.  “I will reapply because I can combine both of those passions, and I am always excited to go to work and get the next call.”

A ministry spokesperson did not respond to the Journal’s questions by press time.

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