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Handling Cash Safely [Hardfacts]


Cash, which should be regarded as notes, coins and freely convertible (usable) vouchers, is especially attractive to criminals. As such they may use or threaten force ('Robbery') to acquire it, such an event occurring either opportunistically or after considerable research and planning. Unfortunately, by its very nature, robbery often has an impact on the personnel threatened - whether due to psychological or physical harm, or indeed both.   

All organisations that have staff handling  cash can be at risk of robbery, and should therefore take measures to protect personnel from its potentially harmful effects, i.e. by virtue of  section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which states that "it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all their employees".

With this duty in mind, every effort should be made to eliminate or reduce the robbery risk to personnel by provision of a safe workplace and systems of work associated with cash handling, i.e. cash receipt, issue, counting, transfer, banking, and related storage.

This Hardfacts outlines some general advice on cash security which is primarily aimed at enhancing personnel safety. More specific information on protecting the actual cash from robbery and theft is available in ‘Hardfacts' 3013 and 3014 respectively

Step 1 - Risk Assessment

As a first step a safety risk assessment should be undertaken that considers:

  • When, where and how cash is handled
  • When, where and how cash is stored
  • The amounts of cash handled/stored
  • Who handles or has access to cash
  • The nature of the cash handling personnel
  • The likelihood/nature of a robbery
  • The impact of a robbery on personnel
  • The adequacy of existing precautions

Once the assessment has been completed, measures to enhance personnel safety can better be considered, as indicated below.

Step 2 - Risk Avoidance

In some cases use of cash can be avoided.

Step 3 - Risk Reduction

The amount of cash potentially available can sometimes be reduced.

Step 4 - Risk Transfer

Sometimes some or all of the risk associated with cash can be passed to third parties e.g. use of a recognised Cash and Valuables in Transit (CViT) company.

'Hardfacts' 3013 and 3014 provide more detail on steps 2-4 above.


Step 5 - Managing Risk 

Those risks that are unavoidable or which remain after considering steps 2-4 need to be managed so consider:

Procedural Security

Arguably the most important safety measure is that cash handling and other personnel:

  • Are trained to adhere to clear safety procedures and then held to account for their ongoing use.
  •  Understand the reason for/workings of any safety procedures and devices provided and any possible limiations e.g. relating to use of a permanent or portable "hold up alarm" 
  • Have defined and, where appropriate, limited access to cash handling/storage areas.
  • Have clearly defined limits of authority.
  • Avoid lone working, especially when premises are being opened or locked up.
  • Do challenge strangers noted in or around the premises.

General Deterrence

Criminals are usually looking for an easy target, so are susceptible to being deterred if security precautions that are not otherwise readily apparent  are 'advertised', e.g. display warning signs such as "Staff at these premises do not have access to the safe" or "We do not tolerate threatening behaviour to our staff " etc.

Security Guards

At some sites a manned security presence, either provided ‘in house' or via an external company, may be appropriate. When selecting a guarding company use of NSI or SSAIB listed companies is advised.


Robbery risk to cash handling personnel can be reduced if they cannot be easily reached or directly threatened by robbers, so:

  • If possible ensure cash handling is only done with the public excluded from the building
  • If public access to a building cannot be restricted, ensure cash handling is undertaken within a locked room or suitably built and secured cash office
  • Use access control measures to hinder unauthorized access to at risk areas
  • Use built in proprietary bulk cash transfer systems for CViT company deliveries or collections

Note: Segregation should not be mistaken for seclusion. As robbers usually wish to involve/seek control over as few of people as possible during an attack, it is helpful if the segregated area is located within clear view of other staffed/occupied areas.

During an Attack - Access to Safes

If robbers do gain access to cash handling personnel, their safety can be increased if it is clear that, whilst they are co-operating with robbers, they cannot access all or some of the cash due to circumstances beyond their control, e.g. keep cash in a safe fitted with some or all of the following:

  • Deposit only facilities
  • Dual locks
  • A time delay or time lock

During an Attack - Intruder Alarms

If a robbery occurs a means of calling for assistance should be provided, which will most usually be by means of an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) monitored ‘police response' alarm which incorporates:

  • Hold Up Alarm (HUA), sometimes called personal attack (PA) alarm - not only for use by those likely to be under attack, but also by those who may witness it. Although HUA are normally silent to avoid panicking robbers, a visual warning may usefully be fitted to alert personnel elsewhere in the premises.
  • A phone/radio based dual path Alarm Transmission System (ATS) having high security/performance - to ensure a HUA can still be sent after any pre-robbery cutting of 'phone lines', or that total failure of the ATS will be quickly detected and reported.    
  • A ‘duress code', to allow users being forced by robbers to unset an alarm to secretly indicate this to the ARC who in limited situations may be able to notify police.
  • ARC monitoring of pre-agreed alarm ‘opening/closing' times - to detect unexpected unsetting/delayed setting, either of which  may indicate a possible robbery in progress.

During an Attack - Security Fog Systems 

When activiated, these systems, sometimes called security 'smoke' systems, very quickly fill a room/area with harmless thick obscuring white fog, thereby preventing intruders from seeing their target(s).  Although originally designed for burglary protection, with particularly careful attention to design they are now being increasingly used to help prevent robbery, i.e. they are manually activated to protect frontline/counter staff. Such systems should:

  • Be designed, installed and maintained by an installer familiar with use of such systems in anti-robbery context, and whose adherence to relevant British/European standards (e.g. BSEN 50131-8) and any police/fire brigade requirements, is evidenced by holding accrediation from a recognised alarm inspectorate body, i.e. the NSI or SSAIB.

During an Attack - Personnel Actions

Personnel should be trained to react safely and appropriately during a robbery, so instruct them to:

  • Co-operate with robbers
  • Only use alarms/security devices if it is clearly safe to do so
  • Not risk their life or that of colleagues

During an Attack - Information

Preventing a repeat incident enhances future safety of your personnel and others so measures that assist the police in gathering evidence during a robbery, and thus hopefully apprehending the culprits, should be put in place, for example:

  • Installing CCTV systems that capture good quality images and which are securely stored and processed as per data protection requirements i.e. as expressed in the Information Commission's Office (ICO) CCTV code(s) of practice.
  • Training personnel in the need to remember the physical features, voices, mannerisms, etc, of any robbers; and then write them down as soon as possible after any incident
  • Ensuring that the scene of the crime is left as undisturbed as possible pending arrival of the police, as this can help preserve/avoid contamination of possible forensic evidence.

Key Action Steps

  • Assess the risks and consider the adequacy of current security measures
  • Seek professional help and advice, including that of any interested insurer
  • Use suitably accredited and competent providers 
  • Ensure personnel receive adequate initial and ongoing refresher training
  • Display suitable warning signs
  • Review safety measures on a regular basis and as circumstances change

Sources of Further Information

Other ‘Hardfacts' in the Property Protection Security series, which are available in our ‘Knowledge Store' at

Raid-Control. See

The RISCAuthority (Uk property insurer's technical group). See

Note. Their website contains many documents that my be useful e.g. those covering the essential principles for the security of property, robbery protection, cash handling, ATMs, security fog devices, intruder alarms, CCTV and keyholding etc.

The Disclosure and Barring Service see

 The Security Industry Authority. See

National Security Inspectorate (NSI) - Tel 01628 637512 or see

Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) - Tel 0191 296 3242 or see

Security Fog Companies:

SMOKECLOAK - Tel 01604 839000 or

BANDIT - Tel 0870 7770434 or

SMOKESCREEN - Tel 01205 821002 or

PROTECT - Tel 01299 254254 or

Master Locksmiths Association (MLA). Tel 01327 262255 or see

British Security Industry Association (BSIA) Tel 0845 389 3889 or

Next Steps:

  • Source discounted products, available to Aviva insured customers and brokers only, via our Preferred Supplier Scheme - click here to find out more about the savings you could make
  • View our Tools and Templates
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
  •  Email us at

Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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