Out-of-hours building access (fingerprints and lone working)

*Update 14.03.2024 fingerprints are considered sensitive biometric data and even the European Parliament has been held to account by the EDPS on this.* Original article: While we’re not enthusiastic about colleagues being in the office overnight or at the weekend, sometimes it might be necessary[1]. Nevertheless, we’d like those who do this to be safe.  On a practical note, please prepare: is your mobile charged, do you have it on you and is there generally a good enough signal? Does someone know where you are and when you expect to finish? If you were to get stuck somewhere or collapse while alone in the office at night, would you be able to call for help and to give your precise location?

Now you’ve phoned for help and they know where you are: onto the next issue, how does that help access the building and how long will that take? There are established procedures for people working alone in order to ensure their well-being is prioritised. Last year it became possible to access one Brussels building when guards are absent (27/06/2022) and this is to be extended to 16 others (21.04.2023).

We were (and remain) unable to find any corresponding risk assessment or documentation available via MyIntracomm, the housing conditions manuals (parts 1 and 2) or Commission Decision (EU, Euratom) 2015/443 on Security in the Commission.

In July 2022 Generation 2004 requested documents:

  • detailing the Commission lone-worker policy[2], given that a colleague might be completely alone in an otherwise-empty building overnight (or over the weekend?),
  • sharing the risk assessment for this type of access,
  • providing information on collaboration with the appropriate health and safety committees[3] and the medical Service/Psychosocial support,
  • listing all fingerprint-enabled guardless-building-access process currently in use elsewhere in the Commission,
  • planning for future use of fingerprint-enabled guardless building access on any Commission site,
  • updating the double verification procedure listed on MyIntracomm and revising 2015/443 to make reference to fingerprints and their storage,
  • clarifying whether fingerprint-enabled building access uses the same electronic access control equipment mentioned on MyIntracomm or whether this too must be updated.

Our request has received no response, but we are following up on this.

As always, we would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004.

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[1] Necessary for whom? We live and work in a burnout culture. While the ‘new normal‘ promised flexibility, that can often appear to be a flexibility on one side only.

[2] For example the Irish Health and Safety Authority lone worker website:

  • ‘Precautions should take account of normal work and foreseeable emergencies, e.g. fire, equipment failure, illness and accidents.’
  • Measures might include ‘automatic warning devices, e.g. panic alarms, no movement alarms, automatic distress message systems, i.e. pre recorded message sent if not actively cancelled by operative, etc.’
  • ‘has the worker a safe means of travel to and from the location, especially out of normal hours’?
  • ‘Hazards that lone workers may encounter include:
    • accidents or emergencies arising out of the work, including inadequate provision of first aid
    • sudden illnesses
    • inadequate provision of rest, hygiene and welfare facilities
    • physical violence from members of the public and/or intruders’.

See also the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 2020, Working Alone in Safety; Controlling the risks of solitary work.

[3] CPPT and CSHT.

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