Nearly every business owner and manager recognizes the value of a safe, secure workplace. But far too few consider all of the potential threats individuals present. If you truly want to protect your people, your assets, and your hard-earned reputation, you need a three-pronged approach.

The three prongs I mention are having clear and thorough knowledge of who you’re employing, being aware of who is visiting your facilities and the risks they pose, and having the confidence that vendors who are performing work in and around your facilities don’t present a threat. Each of the three is important, but neglecting any one of them creates an unacceptable risk to your company.

Suppose you perform thorough background checks on prospective employees to eliminate candidates whose background may include criminal acts or the propensity for violence. That’s a good thing. You’re also very careful about visitors you allow into your facilities, whether that’s for tours, sales calls, or other purposes. You know their identities and you make sure they’re accompanied at every moment.

But there’s that other category — the people who vendors send in to perform work in your facilities. Like Teddy, that quiet plumber who is fixing the sink in women’s bathroom at the far end of your production facility. When he arrived, your maintenance supervisor walked him back to the bathroom, explained what was needed, and walked away. There’s Cheryl, that temp who is filling in while your accounts payable clerk is on her honeymoon. She’s a nice lady who’s very friendly to everyone around her, and she shows up on time every day. And there’s Roger, the genial guy who comes in twice a week to fill the vending machines throughout the facility. Everyone recognizes Roger and treats him like he works for the company. He’s in and out with his handcart full of boxes.

Here’s what you didn’t know. Teddy is a registered sex offender with a past conviction for violent assault. Cheryl has a painkiller addiction and rifles through desks and purses when nobody’s looking. And those things people think they’ve been misplacing? Well, they’ve been rolling out the door on Roger’s cart for months.

When you think about it, background checks and similar strategies are like a net that stands between your business and those who would harm it. But when you aren’t addressing all three prongs of protection, that net has a pretty significant gap that bad people can slip through. And yes, there are a lot of bad people out there — especially the kind of people "you’d never suspect," as managers often say (usually after something bad happens).

No matter how carefully you’ve checked the folks who are on your payroll, they’re not the only people who are setting foot in your facilities. In fact, as companies outsource more functions, a larger percentage than ever of the people in your buildings at any given moment may not work for you. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that vendors are checked just as carefully. Their employers may tell you that they screen new hires, but it doesn’t hurt to do some checking of your own. Today, there are automated systems that simplify the process of both checking backgrounds and keeping track of who’s in your facility at any time.

Even if you’re checking your own employees and those of vendors, don’t forget about visitors. You should be confident that every person on your property does not pose a threat to you, your employees, your assets, and your reputation. This kind of protection isn’t paranoia. It’s sensible risk management. After all, it takes just one person slipping through the safety net to put your company’s name and facility on the evening news, or to endanger the employees you value.

A great parallel is fire protection. It’s unlikely that a fire will sweep through your facility anytime soon, but I’ll wager that you have plenty of extinguishers and sprinklers in place in case it ever happens. The likelihood of a person causing some kind of loss is significantly greater.

Make sure the companies you trust to protect your people and places take a comprehensive approach. If they can only address one of the three prongs, you need to find someone who can provide the other two, or switch to a company that can handle all three. Anything less will only provide a false sense of security.

Mike McCarty is CEO of Danville-based Safe Hiring Solutions.

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