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International bright young thing?

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A new piece of research from Berg Insight tells us the lone worker market in Europe and the US is on its way to being worth a projected $330 million (€260M) in three years’ time (up from $140 million in 2017). This is based on the number of people using monitored personal safety devices growing from 155,000 to 375,000 in the US, and 500,000 reaching 1,100,000 in Europe – all by the end of 2022.

By "monitored" they’re referring to devices that are most likely cellular enabled that link a user in distress to 24/7 alarm support, where a trained operator (not an automated server) will listen to events being captured and escalate for an appropriate response in line with police guidelines.

Projected growth is clearly good for the industry, and lone working is symptomatic of modern working patterns and the needs of a 24/7 economy. This is also reflected in press coverage of the same research by IoT Business News, “The number of individuals working alone is also expected to grow as businesses strive for increased efficiency”.

In terms of the UK lone worker market, significant work has already been done, and the resultant benefits experienced by a wide number of stakeholders to improve practices. Achieved through a combination of individual lone workers lobbying for change, employers, charities, unions, the police, press, lone worker specialists, consultants, and legislators.

Internationally, many of the same conversations are still developing and taking place at an individual country level now – and clearly it takes time for working practices and collaboration to evolve. In all markets, engaging the police as a key stakeholder is vital to the process as any alarm is only worth the response that it can elicit.

Key factors that will tip the balance of adoption in developing markets:

• Education

Continuing to help people better understand what lone working is, it’s prevalence across all industries and job environments, and that it can present risks to staff even if it’s a small part of a working day in terms of time.

Successfully engaging employees that have done the same job for 20 years and never had a problem before – that risks to staff and organizations can change, and that the potential for needing help while working alone is not based on competence or strength.

• Legislation

A key driver or hindrance? Most organizations are happy to invest in the safety of their staff within an agreed budget, but in the case of a serious lone worker incident, the prospect of punitive damages always prompts considerations in the board-room. Right or wrong, when a corporate body is required by law to improve some aspect of its operation, it invariably does.

• Listening to and understanding your employees

If there is a disconnect between what workers and senior managers believe, it’s very hard to have an effective safety culture that everyone will buy into. Assumptions should be qualified and a platform for open dialogue around safety should be encouraged.

• Training & Support

Staff need to be empowered to help improve and affect the safety culture within an organization – not to have the final say, but to buy into the process and assist implementation. Without proper training and support, technology adoption will ultimately fail.

• Viewing Investment vs Cost

A lone worker solution needs to add value. Safety solutions need to demonstrate how a workforce is benefitting by feeling safer, evidence that can be measurable via easy to understand reporting. Without metrics that underpin the argument for good utilization and return on investment, a procurement department will not have effective metrics to use.

Any implementing organization also needs to consider a potential investment made in the context of the opportunity cost of what it could be forced to spend in other areas, should they have a major lone worker incident – e.g. fines, etc.

• Effective culture change

Sharing examples of best practices and networking is a key part of the process – appointing safety champions, partnering with other organizations to spread the word, and lobbying potentially important stakeholders. Creating partnerships that resonate with different stakeholders will help foster an improved safety culture.

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