The Huge Impact That New Technologies Have on Lone Worker Safety

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Lone workers, needless to say, carry out some of the most dangerous and challenging jobs. Security officers, delivery workers, realtors, in-home nurses and healthcare providers as well as social workers, among many others, very frequently spend portions of the day away from their employer’s headquarters or offices, colleagues and the security existing in the familiar workplaces. Working alone and attending unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situations is a very common challenge faced by lone workers on a daily basis.

The continuous threat of physical harm can eventually take a toll on these people who work alone, and their constant lack of safety can ultimately lead to a lower level of performance, a reduced level of engagement with the company and increased employee turnover.

Convenience store employees, overnight stockers, warehouse employees or security guards present safety challenges that specialists say are very often overlooked. Safety mobile apps and audible alarms can actually help lone workers communicate in some emergency situations.

The risk of being a lone worker is evidently reflected in the list of jobs with the most workspace homicide victims: taxi driver, security guard, truck driver, door-to-door sales or delivery, retail sales cashier, janitor, police officer, and so on. Violence is not the only issue here: solitary work can actually put employees at risk should they suffer an emergency or are injured while on the job.

Businesses need to establish procedures and introduce security measures to mitigate the risk of lone workers, based on a risk assessment of the hazards faced by workers who carry out their duties alone. Of specific concern are employees who do not always work alone (for instance police officers or taxi drivers) but sometimes work separately from other colleagues for an extended period of time. These include, for instance, employees in isolated portions of warehouses. The following are some of the questions a retailer should ask:

  • Do employees work alone at times? If the answer is yes, are they aware of the emergency alert procedures?
  • During the inspection of facilities and premises, did any areas seem isolated? If the answer is yes, which areas?
  • In such isolated areas, how far is the nearest colleague who could hear a call for help?
  • Can be easily predicted when other people will be around?
  • Do workers have access to alarms or panic buttons? Are these alarms or panic buttons easily accessible? Is the functioning of these alarms and panic buttons regularly checked?

The ultimate goal

Workers who carry out their duties alone need to be equipped with all the necessary technologies to safeguard their health and safety, including wearable technologies, a smartphone or device that can run a lone worker app. They also need to be equipped with any other alarm that could potentially be helpful, like a personal alarm signal device that can detect a serious incident using position sensors, and triggers an alarm accordingly. Such devices should be able to establish an audio and visual connection to the worker, so that they are able to communicate even if they are not able to move. If the employee is unable to respond for any reason, the control centre will use this connection to assess the situation without any input.

Monitoring processes

When a worker has an incident or a machine actually fails, the response team must know about it instantly so that the situation can be addressed effectively and rapidly. Many safety processes rely on alarm processes where the alerts are routed through external operators based at centralised control centres. These operators will, in turn, escalate and activate the response. These alerts are usually presented via a dashboard and frequently do not provide enough details and information to differentiate between truly critical alerts and those alerts that should be considered of low priority.

Through the coordination of pragmatic processes and other tools, serious alerts can be automated to go directly to the smartphones of the most appropriate engineers on the job site.

Lone worker devices and technologies have changed the game completely. Summing things up, the advantages of lone worker devices are about achieving compliance, maintaining safety levels and enabling the workers to be more productive in their day-to-day tasks.