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June 9, 2016

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How we can learn lessons from lone worker safety implementation in different industries

By Ian Johannessen, managing director, Peoplesafe

People who work on their own account for a large proportion of the UK workforce – about 22 per cent, which equates to almost seven million people. That’s a lot of people at risk if the correct systems are not put into place!

Two areas in which lone workers may find themselves in risky situations are in utilities and housing. In this blog I’ll be sharing some of those risks, and they ways in which health and safety practitioners can learn from the journeys of two organisations who operate in these industries.

Utilities companies don’t get much bigger than South East Water, who provide fresh drinking water to over two million people in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire. They also operate 93 water treatment works and employ 850 people ranging from engineers, project managers and scientists, to customer service advisors, HR personnel and accountants.

Some of these staff may work alone, for example when carrying out repair and maintenance work on the network, laying strategic water mains and installing meters at customer’s homes.

They may face risks whilst travelling, from adverse weather conditions whilst working outside, for example at water treatment plants, and from accidents, trips, slips or falls.

So how have the company addressed these risks? To protect their lone workers, South East Water invested in personal safety devices for 238 employees and recently swapped them for phone apps. If staff find themselves in trouble, they now just push a button or tap an app and a call for assistance goes straight through to a monitoring centre. Managers are also able to use the technology to keep track of where their employees are.

Although operating in a contrasting industry, housing associations employ lone workers who face similar risks but in different environments. And Blackpool Coastal Housing in the North West is an example of an association which takes steps to address them.

They employ 185 people and look after the day-to-day management of 5,500 council houses in the borough, which includes managing lettings and leases, carrying out consultations with tenants and leaseholders, enforcing tenancy conditions, and managing anti-social behaviour. Other functions include debt recovery, stock investment, and managing day-to-day housing repairs.

Officers visit people’s homes, for example to carry out consultations or discuss issues around rent payment or behaviour, and maintenance workers can be alone in houses, carrying out repairs.

To protect its staff, Blackpool Coastal Housing invested in 115 discreet personal safety devices, which are disguised as ID badges, and mobile phone solutions for their lower risk workers. Denise Williams, their head of housing operations, has also attended a Personal Safety Champion course.

Denise will be joining us as a guest speaker at the Safety and Health Expo this month, where she will share the ways in which the organisation protects its lone workers, and why early staff consultation and management buy-in and support is so important when implementing lone worker safety solutions.

We’ll also be joined by Chris Lunn, head of health, safety and quality at South East Water, who will discuss types of lone workers and the hazards they encounter, and share details of the company’s health and safety journey.

Sarah Haigh, quality, health, safety and environment manager at e.surv Chartered Surveyors will also share the ways in which the organisation looks after its lone workers and their implementation journey. Based in Northamptonshire, the organisation works with corporate and individual clients and employs surveyors who often visit properties alone.

We’re pleased to see caring companies like these looking after their lone workers, who in turn are likely to feel more confident in their job roles and valued by their employer.

Having senior health and safety practitioners from different organisations speaking in the lone worker theatre about their own experiences is a great way for people to learn best practice from those who have ‘been there and done it’, and we’re very grateful to Chris, Denise and Sarah for joining us at the Expo. We’ll be on stand M1900, so do come along and say hello.

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Ben Shepard
Ben Shepard
7 years ago

What happens if there is no mobile signal for the app to work with ?, what does the lone worker do then, if they are unable to move around sufficiently to get a signal, due to an accident etc.
Thank you.