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February 20, 2015

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How technology is meeting the safety challenges of lone working

By Graham Mills

The rise of technology in business is everywhere. Pop into any shop and you’ll see rows of self-service scanners; even my local bank has been refitted with touch screens where the counter used to be. Technology is advancing in every industry, but the impact on a business is often far wider than simply getting to grips with the tech.

One of the biggest impacts of new technology for us as land surveyors has been employees being able to attend sites alone, with robotic instruments doing the tracking instead of assistants. The technology has made our jobs quicker, easier and more accurate. Crucially, it’s also enabled us to remain competitive in the market; not needing an assistant saves us one-third to half the labour cost per day. However, it has raised one very important issue; ensuring the safety of our now lone working employees.

We’ve always taken employee safety and our duty of care seriously, but obviously the dangers of working on site (often derelict or empty buildings or remote green fields) are mitigated when you have a partner with you to call for help. Before we introduced the new instruments our staff usually worked as part of a team, but suddenly we were faced with a whole new set of safety challenges. We needed to know exactly where our employees were and if they were ok when they were working alone.

Ironically, developing more new technology in the form of an app was how we tackled keeping our lone workers safe. The GPS tracking in smartphones formed the basis of what is now the StaySafe app, which shows an accurate employee location on a map and allows employees to check in regularly and raise an alarm if needed. Developing the app has meant that we have now given peace of mind to many organisations who, like us, have more lone workers than ever before.

Graham Mills is chairman of Technics Group and founder at lone worker security experts StaySafe

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