Technical surveillance systems such as CCTV monitoring are used increasingly in the monitoring of safety. Those using new technologies must remember to maintain a comprehensive approach to safety issues.
CCTV monitoring may lead into a false sense of security where other monitoring is reduced. No monitoring system will, however, release service providers from their responsibility for safety as determined in consumer safety legislation or parents from their responsibility to monitor their children.
CCTV monitoring can be used to supplement other safety monitoring. It cannot, however, never replace competent personnel who are continuously prepared to respond rapidly to any hazardous situations.
The following section provides examples of the use of CCTV monitoring in various contexts.
CCTV system use has been planned for some playgrounds to improve their safety. Cameras installed in such systems can be used for anyone to monitor events in the park on their computer around the clock.
Knowledge of there being a CCTV system in place may reduce vandalism and disruptive behaviour. But, cameras cannot prevent accidents or help children who have been hurt. This requires the presence of an adult who can immediately address any unexpected situations and, if necessary, call for help.
The service provider – which for playgrounds is usually the municipality – must take sufficient measures to ensure service safety to make sure the service does not pose a risk to users. Parents are also responsible for their children, regardless of whether or not the playground is equipped with CCTV monitoring.
Swimming pools and spas
CCTV monitoring is commonly in use in swimming pool and spa pool areas. Spas have been reminded over several years of the fact that pool monitoring cannot be based solely on CCTV monitoring. These are sites where customer safety calls for on-site monitoring by staff – such as swimming supervisors – that cannot be replaced by CCTV surveillance alone.
Swimming pools and spas must have rescue-trained staff who are capable of responding rapidly enough to hazardous situations. For example, a swimmer who has a medical emergency while in the pool is not helped by staff in the control room merely observing them go underwater or the incident being recorded on the computer.
Despite their advanced technology, CCTV systems also involve considerable restrictions. Due to the placement of the cameras, they do not always cover the entire area. Gaps in monitoring continuity cannot be avoided, either, as staff usually also have other duties than monitoring the images transmitted by the cameras. It is overall impossible for one person to fully monitor the images provided by several cameras at the same time. Staff may also not be able to use the equipment correctly and system maintenance may not have taken place as appropriate.
The above principles must also be applied to other sites where CCTV systems or other technical surveillance systems are introduced. These include service housing facilities where such systems are used to ensure the safety of the elderly residents.
Issues related to remote monitoring should also be taken into consideration when using baby monitors resembling radiotelephones to monitor babies left outdoors for a nap. A baby monitor will not prevent an outsider from grabbing the pram from the garden or subjecting the pram to vandalism. The monitor will not be able to protect the child against any animal (cat, squirrel, rat) that may jump in the pram and hurt the child.
In addition to the immediate physical safety of those being monitored, factors related to the protection of privacy must also be taken into consideration in the use of CCTV systems. More information about data protection issues related to CCTV monitoring can be found in a brochure published (in Finnish ) by the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman.