The International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS), a professional organization dedicated to the management and direction of security and safety programs at health facilities, developed a set of guidelines to help project teams to address security risks in the design of new or renovated health care spaces.

The IAHSS Design Guidelines cover specific areas of health facilities, including those for inpatients; emergency care; behavioral health; pharmacies; cash collection; infant and pediatric care; protected health information; utility, mechanical and infrastructure technology, and biological, chemical or radioactive materials. The 2016 edition of these guidelines is available through the IAHSS at

For many people in health care, “it’s difficult to try to take an operational risk, such as workplace violence or pharmaceutical theft, and think about how you prevent that in design,” says Kevin M. Tuohey, CHPA, executive director of research compliance, Boston University and Boston Medical Center, and president-elect, IAHSS. Developed by experts in health care design, security management, physical security, crime prevention through environmental design, regulatory agencies, emergency management and physical plant management, the guidelines are intended to give health care organizations strategies for mitigating security risks through the design of their facilities.

Tuohey says that during the initial concept phase of a building or renovation project, clinicians, facilities management, information management and environmental health and safety staff generally are asked for input about what they want to achieve in the new or redesigned space, but security staff often are not included in these discussions. By following the IAHSS Design Guidelines and involving security experts from the beginning, project teams have a chance to incorporate security features into a design more efficiently.

“You’ve got an opportunity to do it while it’s pennies on the dollar, as opposed to a retrofit that’s going to cost a ton of money, like a new stairwell,” Tuohey says. Expensive change orders or retrofitting aren’t needed when security flaws aren’t designed into a building, says Thomas A. Smith, CHPA, CPP, president, Healthcare Security Consultants Inc., Chapel Hill, N.C., past chair of the IAHSS and current chair of the organization’s guidelines council.