This week’s blog comes from our third key exhibitor Everbridge. Natasha Harvey explores the reasons why organisations should take their Duty of Care to Lone Workers seriously alongside some practical, best practice advice.
The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) estimates that there are six million employees operating without direct supervision either in remote locations or on-site in the UK. With the ever-growing shift to home/flexible and remote working this number will only grow.
This creates a challenge for employers who are responsible for the well-being of the employee, but without regular communications and the right tools, it can be hard to ensure that this duty-of-care is met. Attendees to the Lone Worker Safety Expo will know that a good definition of a lone worker is an employee that carries out an activity in isolation from other workers without close or direct supervision, including everything from travelling sales people, home workers, night shift teams, self-employed manual labourers, and stationary workers in remote locations working alone.
Many of these jobs also come with an increased level of threat, with common examples being care workers who may be dealing with patients reacting badly to treatment, petrol station workers who operate a 24-hr business, and oil & gas workers as well as telecoms engineers who work in hazardous conditions, often alone.
Also needing to be accounted for is the growing percentage of mobile workers, who are frequently alone when travelling for work or spend time working from home. This section of the workforce is rapidly growing, with IDC predicting that 72% of the US workforce alone will be mobile workers by 2020. As this population grows, they too pose a challenge to all businesses, many of which would likely not have had to consider such challenges in the past.
Regulation provides not only guidelines for what employers need to do, but also a vital safety net for lone workers, ensuring they are receiving the protections they need to stay safe.
Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, regardless of location. This also extends to the health and safety of contractors or self-employed people doing work for them. This means that all employers must assess and plan for the risks their lone workers will potentially face.
Lone Worker Best Practice
There are a number of measures that employers can take to address the risks around lone workers. These include:
- Making sure that lone workers have no medical conditions that might make them unsuitable for working alone, by carrying out regular medical checks on employees
- Being more aware of the nature of the tasks that lone workers are being asked to carry out and considering whether there is inherent risk in these. For example, use of heavy machinery by a lone worker may be considered too risky
- Providing a level of supervision to lone workers in the field
- Checking whether there are any specific legal requirements or regulation in their industry or in countries where the lone worker is active
- Arranging regular face-to-face meetings with the company to discuss and assess any risks associated with the role and ensuring these are property recoded and addressed
- Creating a contact and communications procedure for lone workers so that they can identify risk and mitigate it quickly and effectively
One of the most fundamental aspects of lone worker safety is providing effective communications when an incident occurs, allowing for the provision of guidance and counsel to the individual, and a response when appropriate. This is an area Everbridge has specialised in for over 15 years, enabling employers to utilise location-aware technology solutions to quickly find and communicate with their lone workers at any time, regardless of where they are at any specific moment. There are predominantly two vital steps facilitated by these solutions: ‘Assess’ and ‘Locate’.
‘Assess’ is a process whereby data is aggregated from multiple sources, including CCTV cameras, social media, police feeds, and live weather and traffic reports. This enables companies to build a clear picture of the threat environment and make a more accurate assessment of the potential risk to the lone worker section of their workforce. With this information to hand, employees can quickly and accurately communicate the best advice possible for each situation.
The next step is to ‘Locate’ – in other words, to map out the incident zone(s) and establish which assets, people and resources are at impacted. Then the company can decide who can and should respond based on skills sets and availability. This process should be an ongoing one, with companies monitoring a lone worker’s whereabouts via GPS or other means, regularly reviewing that location, and checking for movement.
For example, Everbridge’s Safety Connection™ solution tracks static locations, last known locations and expected location to help determine where an employee is and what risks they may face there. Modern smartphone technology can even enhance this by using advanced sensors to detect things like large movements that might indicate a fall or other accident. This knowledge is highly useful from a safety perspective but can also provide other benefits such as proactive notification of weather, traffic or police events near the employee.
There are also many active measures that can be taken to assist lone workers, such as the creation of a ‘safe passage corridor’, which is an area or zone where the employee is especially at risk, prompting a regular scheduled check-in and other checks with immediate responses being deployed if that window is missed. Another useful tool which Everbridge can provide is the provision of an ‘always on’, discreet emergency alert button. This is a good way for lone workers encountering unexpected incidents to ask for aid quickly and discreetly.
As the percentage of lone workers continues to grow, and many employees are working remotely or without supervision, lone worker wellbeing is moving ever-higher up the corporate agenda. Each business already has the responsibility to care for those it employs, and this is only growing more relevant as the workforce of today becomes more geographically dispersed. Effective communications is a vital part of this, and also has numerous practical benefits, making employees feel not only safe, but that their safety is a vital part of their employer’s planning.
Want to learn more? Read Everbridge’s ‘The importance of Lone Worker Safety’ whitepaper here: http://go.everbridge.com/Q32017LoneworkerWP_RegistrationPage.html You can also visit Everbridge at the Expo on 2nd October 2018. Don’t forget to register as spaces are limited.