Understanding Access Control And Security

Push button locks are a popular means of access control on doors - but are they specified correctly? Read more here

Push Button Locks are a common sight on a wide variety of doors. They are a popular way to restrict access to buildings, or areas within a building, often installed to meet demands by insurance companies or meet industry / Government requirements.

But do they provide security? Let’s take a look at them from a standards perspective.

First, we need to understand what access control is; a form of security that restricts entry into properties, or areas within properties to authorised individuals.

The central reason for access control is to improve security for staff, properties and assets, and there is a range of standards which cover the design and performance of various systems for specifiers,

However, while access control can support security measure, there is a common misconception that such systems provide security – a physical barrier to stop entry - in their own right, which is not correct. An excellent example here is the Push Button Lock (PBL), seen on a wide variety of doors restricting access to the likes of high-value products such as alcohol, sensitive documents in public buildings, pharmaceutical products in a hospital – or even an armoury in a Police station.

The standard covering a PBL is BS 8607, which specifies the requirements and test methods for durability, strength and function of mechanically operated push button locksets and their locking plates for use on doors, window doors and entrance doors in buildings.

BS 8607 used 4 grades to rate product performance; Grade 1 for example was for low use while Grade 4 was where the PBL was in applications where usage and /or abuse would be expected to be high. However, the standard was not concerned with a PBL being used as a physical security product.

This has now changed with the introduction of a revised standard with a new level, Grade 5. This in turn is based on BS 12209 and looks to place the security deadbolt and deadlock standards on auto locking latches.

Grade 5 is a tough standard to reach. It includes:

  • 200,000 cycle test
  • Resistance to attack using a defined list of tools including drills, pliers hammers and chisels for a minimum of 3 minutes
  • Resist a side load 10 times greater than permitted for Grade 1

It’s telling that since its introduction no PBL has managed to meet Grade 5 in full.

It’s fair to say that in many cases, while a PBL was specified for use on doors to restrict access and therefore support security measures, their performance was not always inspected too closely. Grade 5 changes this, with a clear standard on their performance as a security barrier in their own right.

The impact of this new standard will most likely be felt over an ongoing period of time; insurance companies will begin to insist on Grade 5 PBL solutions being fitted to doors as part of their policy agreements, while central and local Government will look to upgrade PBL systems in public buildings and places where private data or sensitive/dangerous products are stored.

For new installations, a specifier will need to understand whether a PBL is to be used to restrict access or provide genuine security, which will be guided by the importance of the assets beyond the door – and then be able to accurately specify the correct type of PBL. However, if there is a need to specify a product that meets Grade 5 in full, at present there are no options available.