Evolution of Lone Worker Safety Systems

By 11th June 2017 Location Services

The Risk of Prosecution is High

If a health and safety offence is committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the organisation, then that person (as well as the organisation) can be prosecuted under section 37 of the H&S at Work etc Act 1974.

Lone Worker Introduction

With the introduction of The Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act in 2007, there is now a practical, moral and legal imperative for organisations to protect their workers. We no longer face the question of whether organisations need to institute Lone Worker solutions, but how they should go about it. Recent legal cases have confirmed that directors cannot avoid a charge of neglect by arranging their organisation’s business so as to leave them ignorant of circumstances which would trigger their obligation to address health and safety breaches. Insurance providers, unions and the police are also putting increasing pressure on companies to protect their employees.

Employers have responsibilities for the health, safety and welfare for all their employees whilst at work, irrespective of the employee working from a fixed or non-fixed place of work. These responsibilities cannot be transferred to people who work alone. It is the employer’s duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to eliminate, mitigate or control risk, where necessary.

The effect of even the threat of violence on workers can be extreme. It can lead to stress, anxiety and depression as well as a sense of failure and a loss of confidence. In turn, this can lead to stress-related health problems and sick-leave. It is estimated that 603 000 workers had an accident at work in 2010/11, and 200 000 of these injuries led to over 3 days absence from work, with 150 000 absent for  7 days or longer, costing over £2 billion lost to stress or depression. It is the employer’s duty to assess the risk to their staff and take appropriate measures to reduce it. An employer who has failed to take account of a foreseeable risk can be deemed to be negligent, with the cost of an investigation into a physical attack running into tens of thousands of pounds and potentially being prevented from trading. Unfortunately, although the term “Lone Worker” is becoming widely accepted and adopted, through wide ranging health and safety legislation’s globally; There are still many organisations who do not fully understand its implications, with 25% of employees surveyed said their employer never checked the welfare of their staff while working alone.

Clarifying the Lone Worker Problem

The first issue that causes confusion when dealing with Lone Workers is defining exactly who falls into this category. The need to work alone crosses all boundaries of industry and seniority. Lone Workers can be anyone: taxi drivers, nurses, oil and gas engineers, security guards, government staff, transportation and logistics drivers and many other professions will fall under the term ‘lone worker’. Furthermore, the boundaries of what constitutes a Lone Worker are also regularly extended by new legislations. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a Lone Worker as someone who “works by themselves without close or direct supervision”. This might apply to:

  • Those who work outside normal office hours
  • Those who work in direct contact with the public
  • Those who work remotely from a central office
  • Those who are remote from accessing standard emergency services

Given the difficulty in defining what an actual Lone Worker is, it has been hard to estimate their numbers within the UK. Current figures, based on the proportion of UK employees who spend most of their time working away from the workplace, suggest that approximately 8% of the UK’s working population are Lone Workers. This equates to roughly 4 million people in the UK and rapidly rising. With an estimated 621,000 non-fatal injuries to workers  according to self-reports  from the Labour Force  Survey in 2015/16, and 4.5 million estimated working  days lost due to non-fatal workplace injuries.

Undoubtedly these types of workers are exposed to an increased risk of verbal and physical assault, as well as being at greater risk of accidental injury where the emergency services are unavailable. 81% of Lone Workers are concerned about violence or aggression, whilst 56% of those in the NHS, Local Government and Housing Associations have experienced aggression at least once in their careers (approximately 10% of these experienced physical aggression). A third of community nurses have been assaulted or harassed in the last two years, with 6.2% suffering a physical attack. Clearly, Lone Workers are concerned about the threat of aggression during their working lives, with 22% of those who have regular contact with the public believing that they would be threatened in the next year and 10% expecting to be assaulted. The key triggers of aggression against Lone Workers have been identified as carrying valuable money or equipment, alcohol and drug use in attackers, unsafe areas and resentment from those the Lone Worker is visiting.

Lone Worker Statistics

The Health & Safety Executive has released the latest statistics for workplace injury and sickness in Great Britian. The Statistics cover the period from 2015 to 2016. The records for injuries in the workplace continue to show a downward trend although the rate of decrease from one year to the next is starting to level-off. The numbers for injuries that were not fatal are primarily taken from the employer reported survey:

  • 144 workers killed at work in 2015/16
  • 621,000 estimated non-fatal injuries to workers  according to self-reports  from the Labour Force  Survey in 2015/16
  • 72,702 employee non-fatal injuries reported by employers under RIDDOR  in 2015/16
  • 4.5 million estimated working  days lost due to non-fatal workplace injuries according to self-reports from the Labour Force Survey in 2015/16
  • 1.3 million working people suffering from a work-related illness
  • 2,515 mesothelioma deaths due to past asbestos exposures (2014)
  • 30.4 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury
  • £14.1 billion estimated cost of injuries and ill health from current working conditions (2014/15)

These statistics suggest that workers would see the need to insist upon Lone Worker solutions from their employers. However, a great disparity has emerged amongst Lone Workers between the perceived level of danger and the demand for greater protection. Lone Workers often see their hidden, untested people skills as their main defence. Worryingly, it takes an actual incident to create a ‘need’ from the Lone Worker’s perspective, but this would be far too late for the liable employer. Many Lone Workers share the mindset that having to deal with aggression and dangerous situations is an expected part of their job. Indeed, very few Lone Workers choose to leave their job due to violence or aggression. Lone Workers may also be unaware of the potential solutions available. This means that the onus remains on employers and solutions vendors to institute measures to educate workers about safety and to work with them on appropriate solutions.

Adopting Lone Worker solutions

Despite the pressures on companies to implement an effective Lone Worker Safety System, many companies are still reluctant to invest in lone worker solutions when they cannot see any clear tangible benefits for implementation. Organisations have a legal obligation to protect their employees, and according to recent survey in the UK highlighted 48 percent of businesses have insufficient measures in place to protect their staff when working alone. Compounding matters further, employees are also not pushing a demand onto their employers for improved lone worker safety systems, with a lack of vocalised demand. This in part is driven from a lack of awareness from the employee in the understanding of technology currently available resulting in increased safety while operating alone, and across potentially harsh, hazardous and hostile environments.

Direct and indirect cost drivers:

  • Lower staff turnover and reduced long term absence
  • Improved morale and company loyalty
  • Increased productivity in the work place
  • Reduced legal costs and insurance costs
  • Protected shareholder value
  • Improved Health and Safety culture throughout the business
  • Recognition of your moral and legal Duty of Care
  • Strengthening of positive information flows within the business
  • Improved Public Relations – Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR)

The global Lone Worker market, and lone worker solutions for hazardous areas is confusing for many organisations. There is a vast array of mobile devices from smartphones, to wrist bands, tags, ID cards and dedicated lone worker personal devices with dedicated SOS button technology. All of which have there variations of complexity, capability and limitations dependent on your companies risk profiles. Then there is the Alarm Receiving Centre’s (ARC), and the many hundreds of lone worker applications and safety systems which are available across wide range of device ‘app stores’, some are free to download and others chargeable, with variations of support and assistance in setting up and deploying.

What clients require is a solution from a trusted company. They need the education and support to deliver a cost effective lone worker safety system, able fit easily within an organisation’s existing infrastructure. The lone worker safety system, must be able to address the various risk profiles within an organisations employee base. The system must be easy to deploy, and easy to manage, making a lone worker safety system truly effective, giving piece of mind to those lone workers operating in potentially dangerous situations.

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Lone Worker Risk Assessment

The key to maximising safety wherever lone working is under consideration is the performance of a satisfactory risk assessment that should address two main features:

  • Whether a person working alone can do the task safely and
  • What arrangements or controls are required to be implemented to ensure that the lone worker is at no more risk than employees working together

The risk assessment should prescribe arrangements for monitoring the hazards of lone working by qualified supervisors/managers. The employer should maintain appropriate communications with the lone worker and the lone worker should be equipped with a means of two-way communication. The system should enable the worker to raise an alarm or be located if assistance is required.

Our Lone Worker Safety System

More than just a lone worker safety system, AirGurad real-time location system, for locating what’s important. Easily track lone workers indoors and outdoors and monitor work processes with current status of work, and confirmation of completed tasks, checkpoints and time designated activities which can be monitored in real-time with irregularities reported to key personnel for assistance. Fully accredited to BS8484 — the British Standard for the provision of lone worker safety device services.

Core AirGuard Lone Worker Safety System Features:

  • Indoor / Outdoor Positioning
  • SOS Lone Worker
  • Multi-Checkpoint Scanning
  • Attendance Checking
  • Alarm Notifications
  • Mapping
  • People Management
  • Sensors, Heart-Rate, Gas Detection
  • Mobile Forms
  • GPS Mapping and Geo Fencing
  • Guard-Mode mobile device restriction and blocking to prevent non-authorised application use, creating a work phone for work purposes culture
  • AirGuard Cloud or On-Premise deployments

AirGuard mobile lone worker application is available on Android smartphones and Rugged PDAs, and intrinsically safe zone 1 and zone smartphones and tablets. At its core, the AirGuard application uses the same key features across devices with unlimited number of patrol definitions, the ability to manage mobile forms, attach images and audio and manage attendance checking and user user clock-in’s and clock out’s for shift planning.

Where Can I Find Out More?

AirGuard lone worker solutions are both flexible and scalable. To find out more on how we can improve the health and safety of your field and remote workers, visit some of the links provided below, or contact us directly.

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