In this article, Will Murray of Skyguard, discusses the importance of BS 8484 accreditation in the Lone Worker Industry. Will who is heavily involved in the ongoing development of BS 8484, provides valuable insight into what the standard means for lone worker providers and end users alike.
What is BS 8484?
BS 8484 is the industry standard for the provision of lone worker device services. Introduced by the British Standards Institution (BSI), it is designed to provide guidance to both employers and their staff, having numerous benefits for each.
Why was the standard developed?
In the mid-2000s as the demand for lone worker protection increased, the National Police Chiefs Council (formerly ACPO) who are responsible for controlling police response to alarms, along with lone worker suppliers, foresaw the need to manage the expanding market and its demand on police resources. The introduction of BS 8484:2009 aimed to improve the quality of service provision and subsequently reduce false alarms.
Minor updates were made to the standard in 2011, with a major revision taking place in 2016 to reflect developments within the industry such as the growing adoption of lone worker smartphone apps.
Advantages of BS 8484 accreditation
For those procuring lone worker services, BS 8484 accreditation can be used as a benchmark to measure the quality of the service that is being provided.
The standard comprises of several sections concerning lone worker safety service provision as a whole, not only the supplier’s capabilities, but also the devices, applications, monitoring centre, training and response services. To gain accreditation, providers must successfully pass a strict external audit to demonstrate their compliance in all of these areas.
Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) must meet stringent requirements around staff vetting, the physical security of buildings and their service resilience procedures to reinstate services in the event of catastrophic failure. As the first monitoring centre in the UK to be certified to BS 8484, Skyguard’s Incident Management Centre, has a number of physical safeguarding features including air lock doors, ram-raid bollards and dozens of other security measures to protect against a wide range of potential threats. The company also has two disaster recovery sites providing triple redundancy to ensure business continuity in the event of a major failure.
Accredited ARCs are granted a Unique Reference Number (URN) by each UK police force. Calls from these numbers are prioritised by police as ‘Level 1’ Emergencies and can significantly reduce response times. Those without URNs have to go through the 999 system which can take longer as operators will need to verify the call, service required and location of the caller before it can be escalated.
Devices & Apps
Within the standard there is a section which defines approved devices and the functionality that they must have, this helps provide end users with certified products they can depend on in an emergency.
As app usage is increasing rapidly, the revised standard has a brand-new section outlining guidelines for smartphone applications. With an updated range of essential functions, the section also advises the types of functions that would be ideal for the different types of lone workers. In BS 8484 this is split between people risk and environmental risk. This allows for a more useful, fit-for-purpose range of solutions.
The updated standard BS 8484:2016 has a new section that focuses on training and customer support so end-users are entirely comfortable with using their product during an emergency situation. To comply providers should deliver lone worker training to both management and frontline lone workers. As a minimum, this should include how to operate the devices or apps — including how to raise the alarm discreetly and how to minimise false alarms.
Lone worker suppliers should also provide support activities and management tools to help employers encourage usage of the devices or apps. This should include telephone and email support and regular usage reports, as well as access to refresher training. Providers must also meet training requirements for their own employed staff, which includes covering all elements of the service they are supplying to customers.
All of the above helps to ensure that accredited suppliers provide the highest level of protection for lone workers. To retain accreditation providers must also complete regular external audits, therefore buyers can be assured that those in possession of the standard continue to offer a reliable solution that follows best practice guidelines.
Summarising user benefits
In summary, BS 8484 has the following benefits to users:
- Best Practice – The standard acts as a benchmark that helps customers select a reputable supplier
- Improve Staff Safety – Through the use of approved devices and services
- Boost Employee Morale – Providing protection for staff shows that employers take their welfare seriously and helps them concentrate on their role without worrying about their personal safety
- Protection Against Litigation – Helps those that utilise a certified solution to meet Health & Safety responsibilities for their Duty of Care to employees
- Speed of Response – Using URNs police react with the highest level of response available as alarms are from accredited ARCs
- Saves Police Resources – ARCs filter out the vast majority of false alarms, saving the Police vital time and resources as they know ARC calls will have already been verified
Finally, it’s important look out for those that claim to be ‘BS 8484 compliant’ but have not received official accreditation. These providers will not have been through the same strict auditing process therefore cannot give the same guarantees as a company that has full certification. You should always ask to see a supplier’s certificate.
If you need advice on BS 8484:2016 accredited solutions, at Skyguard we can help you to choose the most appropriate methods to protect your lone workers. Please get in touch with us for more information.
Will Murray and Craig Swallow will be presenting a workshop on behalf of the BSIA Lone Worker Group on ‘Procuring a Lone Worker Solution: Asking the right questions and understanding the importance of BS8484’ during the afternoon of the Lone Worker Safety Expo. If you haven’t already registered as a delegate, make sure you don’t leave it too late. Spaces are limited this year!