The hazards of lone working

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Rise in lone working

For the past few years, statistics show that the number of individuals classed as lone workers has been steadily growing. Information derived from Health and Safety at work shows that in 2018 there were as many as 6 million lone workers in the UK, representing 20% of the total population.

Many organisations are making the swap from traditional office-based roles to home and remote working, as it often allows for more flexibility and diversity. Industries such as healthcare, housing, construction, charities and engineering employ a large number of lone workers as it allows them to expand their customer base and increase organisational productivity.

Developments in technology also mean that jobs which once required two or more individuals can now be carried out effectively by a single employee. Equipment that once required two people to carry or operate is now accessible to a single employee, while files and work tools can be accessed from a smart device.

Hazards of lone working

Despite the obvious benefits of lone working, employees who work alone are often at risk of external dangers. Lone workers come up against the same hazards and risks as other employees yet working alone leaves an individual vulnerable as help is not as easily accessible in a difficult or emergency situation. Employees working alone may be left in a situation where they are unable to alert someone for help in the case of an accident, confrontation or sudden illness.

Lone workers are also more at risk from theft, violence and assault from the public as they may be viewed as an easier target. Unlike those who work in an office environment, lone workers do not have the support and instant access to help from nearby colleagues when these situations arise.

The risk of violence and aggression is likely to be higher for those working in certain industries and job roles. For example, support staff who work individually with offenders, addicts, or people with certain mental health conditions are more likely to encounter violence, aggression and assault from their patients or patient’s family members. Employees who work in hostile situations such as bailiffs, security, and housing association staff encounter threatening situations regularly due to the often volatile setting, and lone working retail staff are likely targets for armed robberies and anti-social behaviour.

While there are few pieces of legislation that focus specifically on lone working rules, the duty of care remains the same as with other employees. By law, companies have a responsibility to assess and adequately deal with any risks identified.

Safeguarding your lone workers

Fortunately, a number of solutions have been developed in response to the growing number of employees working alone. The fastest growing of which is the lone worker app. Recent statistics show that apps currently account for up to 40% of the lone worker solutions market and expected to rise considerably.

Developments in mobile technology mean that apps are able to provide reliable and intuitive solutions to common lone worker challenges. In the event of an emergency, panic features can be activated, and alerts sent to the necessary contacts, with the added GPS technology, assistance can be sent to the individual’s exact location.

Apps are also more convenient as they are easily accessible from the workers smartphone and they can be developed remotely as new features become available. As the majority of people use smartphones, an app provides a user-friendly and familiar format with minimal disruption to the working day.

As legislation around the world becomes more stringent and begins to incorporate lone working guidance, apps are becoming widely considered as the best way to protect off site and remote workers.

The StaySafe lone worker app

The StaySafe app was developed by its founder Graham Mills in response to a need for his own group of lone working surveyors. He felt that the solutions available on the market weren’t fit for purpose as they didn't provide the level of reliability he required for his employees.

Therefore, StaySafe’s features have been specifically designed to combat a range of different incidents that could potentially arise in lone working environments.

The app has an inbuilt check-in system so employees can set fixed check-in periods within a session. Employees are able to check-in at any point within this time to confirm that they are safe and reset the clock. Failure to do so by the end of the timed period will raise a missed check-in and an alert will be sent.

StaySafe’s panic button allows employees to trigger a panic at any time, even when they have not started a session. The app also allows employees to trigger a duress alert, allowing the employee to act as if they have switched off the system if under pressure from an attacker. However, instead of actually turning off the system, the app sends an alert back to the online hub/monitor to inform them that the employee is under threat from a human attacker.

The man down feature is able to identify when a worker has not moved or checked-in or a prolonged period of time and send an alert to the appropriate emergency contact.

Low signal mode combats issues of working in areas of poor signal and a pairable Bluetooth device provides a discreet and easy way to operate the app.

Visit their website to find out more about StaySafe’s lone worker app.