Protecting the Innocent

Friday 8 November 2013 4:34 PM

It’s almost the season to be jolly but before then we have to get through the season to beware. As we lead-up to the festive season there is more valuable merchandise in transit, needing protection than there has been during the rest of the year.

Security seals protect valuables in transit only as part of a properly managed system. 97.5% of employees are honest people and the security system is as much to protect them and their integrity as the goods that may go missing.

There is nothing quite as corrosive as suspicion in the workplace and often these issues are caused by a weak security system. The security manager of a small retail chain in Norfolk once told me his distribution drivers were keen to have a reliable security system introduced on their vehicles. The system they had was so weak that theft or more likely mistakes in the office or by the warehouse leading to short deliveries were often unofficially attributed to dishonest drivers; this lead to poor morale and an atmosphere of mistrust within the business.

A security seal without a robust process to manage it is about as useful as a guard dog with laryngitis. Before choosing a seal the system needs to be created in which it can be used to best effect.

Firstly, how to manage your security sealing system:

Seals held under lock and key and issued as freely as you would issue cash.

A serial number system written down or a bar code system providing automatic data capture avoiding transcription or transposition errors.

Seals applied by a member of the security team or supervisor at the point of loading, and serial number recorded on the manifest together with time of departure.

Supervised seal removal at point of delivery and the correlation of seal number and manifest. This is easy to manage in a closed distribution loop, more challenging when deliveries are made to third parties who need to be encouraged to play their part in to the system.

The management by exception of non-conformances such as short deliveries or unaccounted losses with a robust investigation process linking the loading team, driver, delivery points, timings and seal numbers. This requires a management system that brings together all the data, allowing patterns to be detected.

Once a suitable system is in place then a security seal can be chosen:

Tamper evident single use seals:  low security, vehicle should not be left unattended, easily hand removable. Seals need to be managed and issued either with serial numbers in sequence or random. Most suitable for short delivery journeys where there are no breaks for the driver outside controlled areas.

Tamper evident barrier seals: high security - prevents opportunistic attack, the vehicle can be left unattended or parked overnight.  Bolt or cable cutters for removal, seals need secure management to avoid them getting into the wrong hands.

Reusable seal with cable hasp or remote sensors:  seal permanently attached to the trailer, simple to manage, management is required to ensure they are always in working order i.e. cable hasps are not frayed or remote sensors are working correctly. Reusable seals are generally a replacement for single use tamper evident seals. Some reusable seals can provide auditable data to show date stamped openings and closings along with the seal number. This data can be interrogated to provide evidence of unauthorised openings between distribution centre and delivery point. 

Seal tampering

Your chosen seal whatever the type, should be tamper evident, meaning that if there is an attempt to manipulate the seal some witness marks will be left behind. Popular methods are cutting and heat welding plastic seals, “unscrewing” or cutting and rethreading cable seals, spinning bolt seals to wear away the internal locking mechanism; all these methods should be rendered nigh-on impossible to get away with by use of a good quality seal, from a reputable supplier and proper inspection techniques.

Know the seal you are using and fully understand the special features that have been designed-in to provide evidence of tampering. A fixed length plastic seal will have the breakpoint outside the locking mechanism, this makes it much more difficult to tamper by gluing or heat welding. The use of probes to open the locking mechanism will leave evidence around the entry points. Be especially wary of claims of “accidental” breakage and investigate such claims thoroughly.   

A plastic seal that is heat welded or glued does not have its original strength so a gentle tug on a tampered seal will lead to its removal. Pull through type seals need to be tested on both sides of the locking mechanism; a cut and rethreaded seal can have original strength on the looped side, the protruding end is where the glue may have been used. Also watch out for numbering changes where, for example, a 6 has been changed to an 8 to adapt a seal to the number on the manifest. It is important to manage broken seals with the same diligence as new ones; broken, used seals provide the opportunity to plan tampering and rebuild and adapt old seals to replace a removed seal using the component parts.

One other thing to watch for is faux sealing. The seal appears to be looped through the door latch but the latch can be opened without breaking the seal. This ruse can be used with any seal and it is something for security personnel to be aware of.

Your security system once in place needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains up-to-date and is adapted to the changing needs of your business.


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