Who’s got a key? – November 2019

This is a question normally asked by a huddle of people standing in the pouring rain outside a darkened building and the organiser of the meeting has not turned up. Or perhaps, more embarrassingly, a visiting speaker or contractor has turned up but no-one can get in. There then follows a series of mobile phone calls to track down a key followed by logistical deliberation about how the key is going to be transported from where it is to the building or identifying someone who is closer.

But who has a key, if you will pardon the pun, is a key piece of information which all those with responsibility for a building should know AT ALL TIMES.

All groups, church or other, should keep a record of all people who have which keys, when they were given to them and when they have been returned. This record needs to be reviewed regularly – perhaps every six months – to ensure that keys are accounted for and produced. Whilst some will consider this to be an irritant, the discipline of keeping tabs on who has keys and that they have not lost them will ensure that you are confident that the building is secure and, when meetings are organised, who will be giving access.

In addition people who move on should return any keys they have been given and an up to date record will demonstrate this has been done.

An occupier should think carefully about the rules there should be for visitors borrowing the building and also for key holders. For example, it might be sensible to tell keyholders that they should not lend their key to someone outside the organisation. Whilst this may sound like common sense, it can often be difficult for a keyholder to decline to lend a key to a friend as they want to appear helpful. But by establishing ground rules, embarrassment on both sides can be avoided and control maintained.

Keys can also give access to places such as boiler rooms, roof areas and safes. Clearly access in these instances needs to be firmly controlled from a Health and Safety and Insurance perspective. An up to date record will demonstrate this is being done. Where valuables are involved, consideration should be given to locks which require high security keys – these can be either patented or restricted – so that keys cannot be cut at someone’s whim or for a stranger but only for someone who is authorised and has the authentication with them. Whilst this can carry an increased cost, the cost will force occupiers to think carefully about how many keys are genuinely needed and making sure they are controlled. More generally, where an organisation has lost track of who has had keys, then serious consideration should be given to replacing locks and starting again to be sure that the occupier is in control of access to the building.