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Develop a Lone Worker Protection Plan

Most businesses have Safety Policies, but is there a Safety Plan that protects lone workers from social, environmental, and personal health risks? Workers are a company's most valuable asset and their protection is good for business.

Perhaps several decades ago, worker safety was viewed as a worker issue.  Companies produced Safety Policies and they expected employees to follow them and take full responsibility for their own safety.

Worker Safety is now an issue for everyone, including employeer, worker, supervisor and regulators.  Legislation has been enacted and regulations have been implemented which make any stakeholder potentially liable for negligence when it comes to worker safety.

Having a lone worker safety plan in place not only protects your business’ reputation and financial interests, it also sends a strong message to your employees that their safety is your highest concern. This, in turn, strengthens your organization and your team.

Developing a Lone Worker Saftey Plan requires employers to address all of their responsibilities:

Provide clear information to workers

  • Clear direction on what work is to be done/not done
  • Proper training on how to conduct the work safely
  • Training on how to conduct a dynamic risk assessment

Reduce Hazards

  • Complete workplace hazard assessments / plans
  • Implement risk mitigation plans
  • Implement emergency response procedures
  • Implement Safety Plans, including for Lone Workers

Deploy worker communication systems that are sufficient based on the work situation.

  • Phones are perfectly acceptable for most workers to call for help.
  • Ensure phone systems have 911 access or access to an emergency monitoring station.
  • Deploy specific lone worker emergency communication devices for lone workers in high risk situations.

Worker Communication Models

When building a Lone Worker Safety Plan the employer must consider what type of communication model to deploy to ensure that Lone Workers are always able to get help.  There are a number of different models but not all are appropriate in all situations.

  • Group Working: The easiest model is to enact a policy to never work alone.  That way another worker is available to phone for help if required.  This is the most expensive option because employers must pay for two salaries at every job site.
  • Buddy systems: Many employers create a buddy system with a requirement that the buddies regularly check in on each other (on a pre-determined schedule) or at the start and end of every job. The buddy is accountable to phone for help if they lose contact with the other worker, or if they know the other worker needs help.  This method is dependent upon employee compliance which falters when workers feel bothered by having to call their buddy or when doing so is disruptive to their work.  Extra diligence must be employed for management to monitor the buddy check-ins through reporting.
  • Central office check-in procedures: Worker must call a dispatcher or network operations centre (NOC) on a regular frequency or at the start and end of every job.  The dispatcher/NOC employee is accountable to phone for help when required.  Similar to buddy systems, this model is dependent on employee compliance and carries the added cost of central office check-in and reporting procedures.
  • 3rd party monitoring services: These are usually paired with Lone Worker Emergency Communication Devices or Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) applications or dedicated devices.  There is an initial deployment cost and usually a smaller monthly monitoring cost.  They provide the convenience of automatic monitoring and automatic alarming for Man-down and geofence violations.  For these reasons compliance is higher and reporting can be automated and they are the most effective means of emergency communication for workers in high risk jobs.

Choices of Communication Devices

The Lone Worker Safety Plan must consider what communcation device to deploy.  Employers can choose from many different communication devices. Not all are appropriate for the situation.

  • Landline phones are not mobile and therefore not appropriate for mobile workers and they can't be used discreetly so they are not appropriate in social risk situations.
  • Basic cell phones don’t support emergency response applications and are not appropriate where a man-down risk exists.  They can't be used discreetly and are not appropriate in social risk situations.
  • Computer-based communication is not mobile and therefore not appropriate for mobile workers.
  • Smartphones require hands and eyes to operate fully, are not industrial-grade, and batteries can be unreliable.  Also they can not be used discreetly and are therefore not optimal in social risk situations.  Wireless phones aren’t associated with a fixed address. The information from a mobile location is sometimes insufficient to enable rescue personnel to deliver swift assistance. Vital aid is delayed while the 911 operator tries to decipher or extract from the caller the exact location where that aid is required.
  • 2-way radios have no GPS and have limited range.  They are the least discreet of all and are not appropriate in social risk situations.
  • Lone Worker Emergency Communication Devices and Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) applications / devices are designed specifically for emergency alerts and emergency communications.

Decision criteria

As part of a Lone Worker Safety Plan the employer should develop decision criteria when choosing what communication model and communication device is appropriate for their lone worker situation.  The employer should consider the following questions:

Is it easy and fast to use in emergency?

  • Do you need to wait for a check-in schedule before anyone notices something is wrong?
  • Hands-free and/or eyes-free activation of emergency alert?
  • Does it have large well-placed buttons that are usable by people with cognitive disorders or wearing gloves?
  • One-button activation of alarm or communication?
  • Can the user verify that the device is on and working (battery level, network signal coverage, GPS status, device status)?

Will workers wear it and carry it all the time?

  • Weight, size and form factor makes it easy to carry in every work situation?
  • Does the form factor increase the likelihood that the worker will always have it on their person or is it prone to be set down and forgotten?

Where do I need coverage?

  • GSM cellular coverage is becoming virtually ubiquitous where most workers work.  GSM is accessible inside buildings, inside vehicles, and outside.  Cell coverage even exists in basements and underground with remote cell extenders, which any business can purchase from a telephone company.
  • Satellite communication can be better in remote wilderness areas where cell coverage does not exist.

Does the enterprise need to manage costs?

  • Can the enterprise easily limit cost overruns due to excessive or inappropriate use?
  • Is there a fixed or predictable cost model?

Do you require enterprise-grade quality?

  • ISO9001 compliance?
  • Moisture resistant?
  • Vibration and impact resistant?
  • Long battery life?

Do you require enterprise-level control?

  • Does the enterprise need to see user status, user location, speed of travel, and device status (battery level, signal strength, on/off status)?
  • Does the enterprise require a Mobile Workforce Management application/employee dashboard?
  • Does the enterprise need to enforce use, and if so is the device difficult for the employee to shut off, disconnect GPS, or drain battery of their device without being noticed?

Does your worker require a complete set off different communication and alert types?

  • GPS tracking, reporting, mapping - GPS tracking during no alarm to enable more accurate and timely response if an emergency occurs? Does the enterprise need to have the ability to disable GPS tracking if required?
  • Pre-emergency data/voice logging - Log audio and data without talking to an emergency person to provide contextual information later in the event an emergency occurs and the worker is unable to communicate directly at that time?
  • Non-emergency communication – Can the worker contact a buddy/family member/co-worker in a stressful situation that is not emergency? Does the enterprise also need the ability to restrict the number of people or length of time the worker can use the device to talk to others?
  • User-Generated Alarms – Does the user need the ability to proactively generate an alarm to get access to law enforcement or emergency medical personnel?
  • Automated Alarms – is there any situation where the worker may require the device to automatically generate an alarm, such as when the worker becomes incapacitated (man-down) or when the user is being assaulted (rip / smash alarm).

Do you require 24/7/365 professional monitoring?

  • Access to emergency response personnel ALL of the time.
  • Pre-established contacts/relationships with 911, law enforcement and emergency personnel.

Is there a social hazard that may require discreet communication?

  • Can the device be used discreetly?
  • Do your workers need to enable alerts or record their conversations without attracting attention?

SoloProtect is a Lone Worker emergency communication system that incorporates mobile phone technology and GPS tracking into an ID tag.  When a worker feels threatened, is injured on the job, suffers from a medical issue, or needs assistance for any reason, he/she can use the SoloProtect device to get help.  With SoloProtect, workers feel safer as they head out to their job-related duties, knowing that needed help is available at the touch of a button, even with bulky gloves on.

Some competitive solutions don't offer voice communication and others offer only one-way communication.  Others connect the worker with a staff manager only and there is no access to a professionally monitored emergency dispatch centre.  Some devices only connect via satellite and are therefore non-functional inside buildings or near tall objects such as in a tall forest or on a downtown street.  Most competitive solutions are not discreet to use.  They are activated by a cell phone or they look like an emergency communication device hanging on a belt, and reaching for these devices can aggravate an attacker who wants to stop you from signalling for help.

SoloProtect is discreet to use and offers both one-way voice recording and two-way voice call with an emergency dispatcher or a manager/spouse/security/staff member.  Automatic "man-down" protection can signal for help and open a two-way voice call when a worker becomes unnable to get help on their own.

When deciding to incoporate Lone Worker Emergency Communications into a Lone Worker Safety Plan, management must consider many different questions.

SoloProtect is the most widely-deployed dedicated lone worker emergency communication device in the world.  With SoloProtect you get the trusted device plus unlimited wireless coverage, training, support, and professional monitoring for worker safety.