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May 3, 2016

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The challenges of managing lone workers

Ahead of a panel debate at Safety & Health Expo, Craig Swallow, Managing Director SoloProtect Limited & Chairman, BSIA Lone Worker Section discusses some of the many challenges that an employer of lone workers may face.

Who are my lone workers and how do I identify whether they need to be better protected?

In these days of mobile internet, hot desking and flexible working hours, it is common for workers to have to operate on their own, away from colleagues. So it’s probably a fair statement to say that most employers will have lone workers. It might just be a case that they need recognising as such.

When it comes to understanding if they need protection then the starting point for most employers would be to carry out a risk assessment on each job type and to ask those workers for their input on anything that concerns them.

It’s often possible to come up with a matrix of job types and high, medium, low rating on risk as a starting point. Layers of detail can then be considered to take account of other factors such as out of hours’ work, geography, summer/winter, gender and ethnicity.

Developing a lone worker policy

Those employers that Solo Protect work with that have done a great job of minimising risks to lone workers all tend to have a very clear, easy to understand policy document that sets out what is required from the board, line managers and the lone workers themselves. Policies are ‘to the point’ and reviewed annually. Definitions of risk types are included and all stakeholders genuinely buy into the logic detailed.

Making sure lone workers do what is expected of them

A good policy document should advocate user’s carry out dynamic risk assessment before entering an environment or location where they may be risk. The nature of the risks and the assessment may differ from employer to employer but the basic principle of not wanting workers to put themselves in harm’s way is common. So encouraging lone workers to think about risk and to provide details of their location and any risks is an important habit to encourage. Any good quality supplier of a BS8484 certified lone worker solution should encourage such usage and provide regular reporting for the client so that activity can be monitored. Those lone workers who aren’t risk assessing should be identified and targeted for additional training or support.

Deploying a good quality lone worker security solution
Such is the growth in the number of workers operating alone and with risk, you won’t be surprised by the number of companies in the market offering ways to help protect your lone workers. There are many things to consider but a solid solution will always meet British Standard BS8484 and therefore quality for a level 1 Police response if the situation warrants such. Understanding the risk profile of your staff first is important as many solutions suit those with a specific risk (e.g. a discreet system for those facing verbal or physical abuse from others, or a more rugged solution for those with risk of incapacitation). Don’t be tempted to go for the cheapest as generally speaking, you do get what you pay for and is that a risk worth taking with your staffs lives?

The BSIA provides a great source of information and various buyers guides & case studies on lone worker solutions.

Don’t miss the lone worker panel debate at Safety & Health Expo in the Lone Worker Theatre from 10:50 to 11:50 on 21 June.

Criag SwallowCraig Swallow is Managing Director of SoloProtect Limited, a company he founded in 2003 (originally named Connexion2 Limited) to focus specifically on helping clients address the risks associated with having lone working staff. Prior to setting up SoloProtect, Craig had a 15 year career involved in mobile technologies with positions based in the UK and USA.

Barbour Download: Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

According to Barbour, almost a third of workers have been bullied and half of women, and a fifth of men, have been sexually harassed at work. Bullying and harassment is offensive or insulting behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated. It may involve the abuse of power by one person over another, or it can involve groups of people.

This free employee factsheet contains:

  • What is bullying and harassment?
  • The impact of bullying;
  • The role of an employer;
  • Advice for combatting bullying;
  • Actions to take;
  • Sources of help and information.

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Kiri

Hi Roz, I’m interested by your mention of ethnicity as a factor to consider when formulating risk ratings. Could you provide some examples or information, as I’ve not heard that being mentioned before. Thanks.