visitor access policy

How to Create an Effective Visitor Agreement (And Which Mistakes to Avoid)

Your company faces plenty of risks every day.

Many of these risks are unavoidable, but leaders can still make an effort to reduce them as much as possible.

For example, there are physical threats (i.e., fires, hurricanes, floods) that can damage infrastructure and hurt employees. Business leaders should also have strategies in place to prevent intentional harm, such as violence, vandalism, the theft of trade secrets or equipment, and intentional contamination or damage.

Although these threats can come from employees or ex-employees, they can also come from people with no previous connection to your company.

Free download: How to Use Your Visitor Agreement as a Branding Tool

Not all threats from visitors are intentional. Unlike employees, visitors are unfamiliar with your company’s safety and security protocol. They can unwittingly cause serious damage simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, failing to observe safety protocol, or accidentally overhearing sensitive information.

Physical security efforts, visitor identification policies, and a security-focused culture can all help protect against these threats. But a little education also goes a long way. Before visitors step inside, they should understand all of your policies, as well as the possible consequences of failing to follow them.

The first step is crafting a solid visitor agreement for them to review. The second is understanding how to avoid common mistakes in that agreement’s execution so it can actually protect your company.

Crafting a Solid Visitor Agreement

The content of your company’s visitor agreement, sometimes referred to as a “visitor access policy,” will depend on your company’s unique needs and risks. However, visitor agreements often cover the following major points.

Nondisclosure Agreements

These legal contracts pertain to the visitors’ obligation to keep sensitive information confidential. Here’s how we explain it in our full post on NDAs:

“In layman’s terms, NDAs state that a company can take legal action against anyone who shares private information that they agreed not to—whether they’re using the information for their own gain, giving it to others, or even being careless enough with it that it falls into the wrong hands. The agreements may also specify the terms of the potential legal action, such as where it will take place and who will pay for legal fees.”

Some companies may also add non-compete agreements to the visitor sign-in process if they have a lot of contractors who sign in and register with the front desk.

Safety Information

Safety policies usually ask visitors to review safety rules, then acknowledge their responsibility to abide by them.

Your safety agreement may include any directives about washing hands, wearing protective equipment, or observing demarcation lines and posted signs. It may also list prohibited actions, such as smoking or carrying firearms.

You may also choose to sum up safety information in a video. As we wrote in our post on the benefits of safety videos for factory visitors, videos may be better than text alone at conveying important messages. That’s because people’s brains can interpret visual information more quickly, and are more engaged by information in a story format (and many videos take advantage of such a format).

Liability Waivers

In addition to a safety agreement, you may also decide to collect a legal signature from the visitor acknowledging that they won’t hold your company responsible for any accidents or injuries that occur while they’re on site.

Emergency Procedures

Before visitors come in, you may want to give them a brief explanation of how they should respond in case of the most-likely emergency scenarios. For example, you could point out the emergency exits or the designated emergency evacuation meetup points.

Visitor Conduct Agreement

Depending on your company’s needs, you might create an agreement that spells out more about visitors’ behavior. This could include use of your wireless internet, or other policies that were designed to prevent distractions to the rest of your staff.

For some types of companies, these legal signatures are an absolute necessity because of the significant safety risks involved (such as dangerous chemicals or equipment), or because of the confidential nature of the business conducted within (legal firms have these concerns, for example).

In other cases, risks may be more remote, but a general visitor policy is still a good way to add extra protection and make sure that the correct procedures are followed and properly documented.

Potential Problems with Visitor Agreements

Unfortunately, you’re not done with your efforts once you drop off a stack of agreements and policies at your front desk.

Here are a few common problems that can prevent your visitor policy from effectively protecting your business and visitors.

Poor Recordkeeping

As you might imagine, agreements don’t help much if you can’t find them when you need them, or if they don’t have all the pertinent information. For example, agreements should have correct dates and times, or, in some cases, they might not be helpful.

Good recordkeeping means that these documents are filed clearly and in accordance with a consistent records policy so that they’re easy to find. There should be off-site backups of particularly important agreements in case the original records are destroyed.

Legal agreements don't help much if you can’t find them when you need them. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet

If you use a visitor check-in app, it will timestamp each agreement as it’s signed, which leaves little room for error. It also types out the pertinent names, which leaves little room for confusion in handwriting. It can even keep a clear record of which visitors watched which videos, and when they watched them.

Inconsistent Sign-In Procedures

Again, making sure that you have agreements on file for every visitor requires a lot of consistency. Visitors could fall through the cracks and skip the agreement process if they wander into your facility unnoticed. This happens easily when visitors enter through an unofficial entrance, or if your front-desk staff isn’t at their desk when they arrive, so they wander inside looking for someone to help them.

Plus, your receptionists are only human. They might not observe the protocol consistently every single time visitors come in, or they could get confused about which types of visitors need to sign which types of agreements.

A visitor check-in app can help here, too. There’s little room for error when the program follows an established set of guidelines. An app can also tell quickly and easily if a frequent visitor needs to re-approve a waiver that has been changed since the last time they approved it, for example.

The Policies Aren’t Legally Enforceable

The law surrounding waivers and agreements almost always vary by state, and there are almost always exceptions to how they can be enforced. In most cases, a safety waiver won’t protect your company if you do something that the court determines to be grossly negligent, for example. Some states don’t recognize liability waivers at all.

The same goes for non-compete agreements and non-disclosure agreements. If a court finds that your terms are unreasonable, there might not be enforceable consequences.

If you haven’t had your policies and waiver reviewed by a legal professional, you won’t know you’re in trouble until it’s too late.

The Visitor Can’t Understand the Policies

Your office needs to have a procedure in place for when visitors can’t read your policies.

The most common instance of this is when visitors aren’t fluent in the language your policies are written in.

Ideally, visitors should be able to switch the language of your policies by choosing the flag of their native country in your visitor check-in app.

Another thing that makes it difficult or impossible to really grasp the content of your policies is if there are too long, too complicated, or visitors aren’t given enough time to review them.

Streamlining your policies to make them easier to digest will go a long way toward fixing this problem.

Learn more about how to make your policy more user-friendly with this download: How to Use Your Visitor Agreement as a Branding Tool

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