I have recently conducted an analysis of the exploitation of x-ray scanners in hotel lobbies in Africa and Asia. The study on their use in hotels has brought a silent risk-factor to the surface. This article will explain how manufacturers of screening devices discovered the hotel market and what commercial aspects hotel operators should be considering before they install one.
The lifespan of an x-ray scanner is somewhere between 5-6 years, if frequently serviced by a qualified radiation technician. They are mainly found in hotels in Africa, India, and the Middle East. Unfortunately, only a very few of the hotels in these regions have radiation policies in place with penalties. The reality is also that the equipment is often as old as the property itself.
As we better understand the nature of the risks, it is clear that something needs to be done. In West Africa for example, I came across a screening point in a busy leading hotel. It had two vintage black & white monitors and nobody was even sitting in front of them while baggage was loaded onto the running conveyor belt. On another occasion, I walked through a metal detector that wasn’t plugged in.
Furthermore, we need to question whether the screening staff is competently trained to identify prohibited items such as explosives and weapons, or elements thereof. The weakest link in most scanning systems remains the human operator.
Success start with risk awareness
No matter if the equipment is turned-on or for show, we can’t ignore that x-ray scanners contain nuclear radioactive material that is located in a special container in the bottom of each device. A variety of factors, including movements, high outside temperatures, humidity, corrosion, insects and age can compromise the safety of people that are nearby the equipment.
Considering some screening points are located outside at main entrance doors, hoteliers need to make sure the scanners are also suitable for high outside temperatures and humidity. When regular maintenance checks by qualified radiation technician are not on the agenda, the likelihood of getting exposed to nuclear radiation rise.
The radiation dose can vary somewhere in the range between ≤2.8μGy – ≤4.5μGy, depending on the manufacturer. Don’t worry, this is still low compared to the x-ray exposure in the healthcare sector, where you can expect readings that are 20 – 30 times higher, depending on the treatment. The US National Library of Medicine PMC published in 2015 that the Chernobyl incident was estimated at 770μGy.
Regardless of the dosage, potential risks should not be ignored, no matter which country the devices are located on or what local radiation legislation is in place. If there are none, international best practice standards should come into effect. My advice is to get existing devices checked as soon as possible and seek professional advice from specialists in the field.
The main reason why x-ray technology is often out of date or used beyond its lifespan capacity in these regions is the cost factor. It is not rare that hotel operators often choose to buy second hand or cheap technology that unfortunately doesn’t last long. Due to the size and the weight of the devices (most weigh over a half a tonne), sea-freight costs to Africa are an added cost. Purchasing cheap x-ray devices is not recommended either, and they certainly do not contribute to making Africa a safer place. If we want to enhance security in Africa, then we all need to start making changes elsewhere.
The changes should include but not be limited to:
- Manufacturers need to take more account of the local culture
- Offer better servicing agreements once devices are in place
- Provide hotel operators with more knowledge on screening technology
- Educate the hospitality industry on effective use of screening technology
What have market leaders in mind
Smiths Detections is a leading supplier of x-ray scanners. They demonstrate in their video below how hotels can make use of the products they have developed. The technology is already there, now it’s a matter of integrating it into the hotel work flow, without compromising good customer experience. I believe it is a good example of the valuable information that needs to be shared with the hospitality industry.
The current situation we are experiencing in that part of the world right now is not sustainable in the long run. I would like to encourage the leading manufacturers to tailor their sales and marketing strategy and try to introduce a product for African hotels that actually meets the needs of the customers. Another attractive business model could come from combined solutions, where a security provider, such as Securitas, provides qualified operators, makes the investment, and ties this into an all inclusive long term service agreement.
Hotel operators’ expectations are certainly nothing out of the ordinary, but the hospitality industry needs a supply of quality products at an affordable cost that is suitable for their intended environments.