The challenge of background checks

One of the more controversial aspects of our task as aviation/cargo security professionals is the question of background checks, commonly (and incorrectly) interpreted as being a criminal record check.

So what is a background check?

A background check as defined in the Civil Aviation Regulations of 2011 means:

“background check” means the checking of a person’s identity and previous experience, including any criminal history as part of the assessment of an individual’s suitability to implement a security control and/or for unescorted access to a security restricted area;

You will note from the above definition that the criminal record check is a very small part of the background check but we have elevated it in importance to being just about the only thing that we check when carrying out the background check required by Regulation.

And even when we do find a person with a criminal record the decision on the person’s suitability for employment in a security sensitive position is not straight forward or clear cut, there is no reason whatsoever that a person with a criminal record could not be a very valuable team member who would present no threat to aviation security.

Not so other aspects covered by a proper background check; things like:

  • employment record,
  • possible radical affiliations, pending investigations,
  • criminal affiliations,
  • serious financial difficulties,

all these aspects that could present a much bigger threat and which become clear on a thorough background check.

We make extensive use of pre-employment forensic interviews and polygraph tests combined with very thorough vetting of employment records before we employ people in security sensitive positions, perhaps not perfect but a process that has proven effective.


This is an international problem, this article is from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Alleged terrorist associates sacked from TNT air freight depot

The five men who were allegedly intending to head to Indonesia in a small boat. From left Musa Cerantonio, Paul Dacre, Shayden Thorne, Antonio Granata and Kadir Kaya.

The five men who were allegedly intending to head to Indonesia in a small boat. From left Musa Cerantonio, Paul Dacre, Shayden Thorne, Antonio Granata and Kadir Kaya.

What happened at TNT in Melbourne?

The personnel were subjected to a standard criminal record check which did not cause any alarm because the people concerned had never been convicted of a crime!

How could this have been prevented? 

A forensic interview and polygraph pre-employment would have helped.

We need to go beyond the standard “crim check” into the realm of proper, professional background checks especially for persons in security sensitive positions like screeners and persons applying security controls in respect of cargo and persons including all access control personnel.

Remember that the one of the most difficult to detect and combat threats to aviation security (and the general security of your company and its operations) is the “insider threat”, it is critical that you implement proper background check procedures to protect yourself and your company.

Upcoming changes

Changes to Part 110 of the Civil Aviation regulations currently awaiting signature by the Minister of Transport call for much more stringent recruiting policies and processes including much more intensive background checks for screeners.

This is a very positive development that we should all support.

How can we help?

Please feel free to call us should you require advice on the background check process.

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