GPS trackers – Good Practical Solution for lone workers?
This week a BBC reporter asked me whether, with my experience, I would endorse putting GPS trackers on mobile lone workers. My reply was “it depends on your intention”.
If you propose to use it to monitor work patterns and as a big brother device, then I would say “No” for three key reasons:
- I’m not sure what it says about the ethos and culture of the organisation or
the trust and integrity in the employer and employee relationship.
- It’s not a good way to engender yourself with your lone workers if you want them to engage with your processes and procedures.
- Human beings are pretty good at finding workarounds.
If, on the other hand, your objective is to help protect the personal safety and security of your mobile lone workers, then I would say:
If it is the only control that you put in place, it would be pretty useless. You should remember that apart from the accuracy and reliability issues of GPS tracking systems and apps, they only really come into use after an incident has occurred.
As a stand-alone product, they are reactive; we only start to use them when we know we have a problem (unless you are going to have someone constantly and actively monitoring your lone workers), surely you should be implementing proactive ways to prevent harm.
A GPS tracker alone is not sufficient. You would not give a teenager a GPS tracker before they go out and feel that you have done all you need keep them safe. It would not be a substitute for practical advice, open communication and effective support – so why would you think that a GPS tracker alone would be a suitable solution for a lone worker?
If you really want to make it a useful tool, then I would recommend that you make it part of a much bigger picture:
- Complete risk assessments; communicate clear policies and workable procedures in place that decide if, when and how you’re going to allow mobile lone working.
- Give staff training; provide them with the appropriate skills, strategies and practical steps so that they can take proactive measures to keep themselves safe.
- Empower lone workers to make ‘in the moment’ decisions and take actions for their own safety and really mean it. Reward the worker that walks away from a potential sale or visit because they have concerns about their safety.
- Give them a reliable means to communicate; to keep in touch, advise you of any changes to plans and to raise the alarm if they find themselves in a difficult situation.
- Consider using a GPS tracker, which is embedded in a more comprehensive lone worker device and system. One that proactively helps to manage safety and security.
Home working: A Barbour Guide
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