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January 13, 2015

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Getting connected: how modern technology can help protect workers

Tom MortonAdvances in technology have made protecting staff easier and more cost effective than ever before, but common sense must remain the most important aspect of risk management, says Tom Morton.

In recent years, new legislation, increasing regulation and demands for efficiencies have meant changes to how employers must operate – from managing payroll and HR to mobile service delivery and providing protection for staff in the workplace.

In all these areas, technology has played a part. From the growth of the smartphone demanding every business now has a working website to the emergence of software to better manage resources, we are more connected and tech-savvy than ever before.

However, the increase in mobile working also means a greater expectation is placed on company directors to ensure their employees are as safe as they can be, utilising the latest in technology and research to protect workers.

In recent years, the number of fines or prosecutions resulting from inadequate staff protection has been rising, with HSE taking a harder line when they find failures at even the most basic level.

Companies have been hit with penalties of £200,000 or more after incidents involving harm to staff – separate from any civil action which could result if an employee feels their company didn’t take every reasonable precaution to prevent them from harm. Directors have even been jailed as a result of negligence.

As employers, we accept the principle that we have a duty of care to protect our staff, so why are more and more companies finding themselves foul of health and safety legislation?

In many cases, directors may overestimate the cost of providing protection or wrongly assume it’s cheaper to manage internally. They may even think there is no risk at all – until that dreaded moment when it does go wrong.

Thankfully, modern technology has drastically reduced the cost of protecting staff, with a range of options now available to provide efficient and reliable safeguarding when it may have cost far more previously.

Lone workers are a key example of where protection can now be provided economically and securely.

Where previously the only option to provide protection to those working in the community was to send them out with a colleague, discreet alarm devices and mobile phone apps are now available which utilise GPS to help staff feel secure. Some app providers can offer a guaranteed police response without having to make a 999 phone call. It is worth noting though that only suppliers certified to BS-8484 standard offer this comfort to employers and their insurers.

Such technology can even be applied to guard-tour duties, marking out patrol paths, tracking progress and raising the alarm should a checkpoint not be reached in a set timeframe.

With both examples, mobile phones are demonstrating their flexibility and usefulness, making them an affordable and easy way to provide you and your staff with reassurance that someone is always watching their back.

There are other solutions too, but the above clearly shows how with everyday technology and the correct management, staff and property can be protected with the minimum of fuss and impact on day-to-day activities.

Of course, taking such steps doesn’t negate all risk. The common sense test is still vital for an employer when it comes to protecting staff.

If an area is too dangerous to send in a lone worker, technology alone won’t provide a suitable safety net. If your staff don’t know how to use the technology you’ve given them to keep them safe, they won’t be protected at all.

When it comes to staff safety, it is never worth taking a risk, even if you only have a shred of doubt. Take the time to protect your staff and you’ll not just dodge a fine – or worse – but you’ll be rewarded with loyal employees who value the steps you take to keep them safe.

Tom Morton is CEO of digital safeguarding firm, Communicare.

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