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June 3, 2021

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Lone worker protection

Keeping workers safe beyond the working day

Employers need to take a proactive approach to protecting employees round the clock, says lone worker technology firm Peoplesafe’s CEO Naz Dossa.

Naz Dossa Peoplesafe CEOWorking patterns and environments have changed so much in response to the coronavirus pandemic that many workers now find themselves commuting on quieter trains, walking down emptier streets or travelling during less sociable times of the day. It’s an issue that has become particularly prevalent among care and hospital workers, but as hospitality re-opens, there is increasing concern for those travelling during unsociable hours for shift and night work.

A recent survey reported 91% of female hospitality workers felt unsafe coming home from work, and Peoplesafe has registered a big increase in enquiries in recent weeks from organisations looking to extend their protection for workers beyond the working day and take a proactive approach to keeping their employees safe.

Organisations must prioritise revisiting their risk assessments, refreshing training and consider putting safety measures in place to help protect lone workers while they’re travelling to and from work, as well as on-site.

A survey reported 91% of female hospitality workers felt unsafe coming home from work.

Review risk assessments

Many employers will be regularly reviewing their risk assessments in light of changing COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, but they should also be considering how changing shift patterns or working environments could have impacted their employees’ health and safety. Social distancing and reduced workforces have caused more people to be classed as lone workers, from bar staff operating alone late at night to reception staff left alone at the front desk and security guards pacing around empty offices. It’s therefore vital that employers consider the additional risks for lone workers and put measures in place to prevent them.

Data collected by Peoplesafe also found the health and safety risk to hospitality staff rose between lockdowns last year. In the summer of 2020, hotel workers were forced to deal with more than double the number of abusive incidents compared to summer 2019. By September 2020, the number of incidents received by Peoplesafe’s Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) had increased by 320%, fuelled by the need to reinforce COVID-19 measures. Taking into account new roles, responsibilities and working environment is crucial to ensure appropriate protection is put in place.

Empower employees

Employers that are responsible for lone workers – whether they’re alone on their commute or while they’re at work – should ensure that their health and safety training equips employees with skills that they can use to stay safe both on and off-site. Giving employees the skills they need to effectively diffuse an aggressor, for example, can help them to protect themselves whenever they’re alone, whether that’s on their commute into work or midway through a shift. Health and safety training should also be regularly updated, because as circumstances change, the safety risks facing employees will change too.

Provide tools and technology

With increasing numbers of employees travelling at unsociable hours, working from home and working alone, safety-conscious employers are adopting lone worker solutions in order to provide 24/7 health and safety support to their workers. It’s important to remember that some tools and technologies can be used wherever and whenever they need it. For instance, they may need a device that’s discreet enough to carry on their commute or an app on their phone that enables them to summon help in an emergency, wherever they are.

Lone worker technology doesn’t have to be a work item that must be kept on work premises – it’s a piece of personal safety equipment that can and should provide round-the-clock support. Peoplesafe’s Alarm Receiving Centre doesn’t stop operating at the end of the day – on average, our team answers alerts in 5.8 seconds, whatever time of the day they receive them.

Safety protocols shouldn’t end when an employee’s working day finishes, or when they leave a site. Putting in place proactive procedures is one way firms can support employees and create a safety-conscious culture inside and outside the workplace.

Safety & Health Podcast

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In this episode, we hear some clips from a recent roundtable, hosted by SHP, about the role of smart PPE in protecting lone workers.

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