Employers have a duty of care to keep their employees safe. In order to meet these responsibilities, companies are often required to put a number of safety measures in place. These measures could include providing relevant personal protective equipment (PPE), issuing employees with personal safety devices, or running health and safety training programs.
If a business has employees that regularly work on their own, personal safety devices are often the best option to complement a lone worker safety policy. While PPE and training programs play an important role in creating a culture of safety in the workplace, it’s personal safety devices that allow lone workers to get help quickly if something goes wrong.
What Is a Lone Worker Safety Device?
Lone worker safety devices are devices that help employees working in remote locations to alert their colleagues if they require assistance. These devices can range from a simple mobile app to a high tech wearable panic button. They could even be a simple noise-maker available in retail stores around the country.
Most safety devices have a built-in alarm that can be triggered by the employee if they feel their personal safety is threatened in any way. These threats may come from aggressive customers or guests, workplace accidents or other challenging conditions. A few high-end lone worker safety devices even allow employees to check in with their employers regularly throughout the day. Any missed check-ins can trigger an automatic emergency response.
The provision of these devices will commonly form part of a company’s lone worker safety policy.
How Do Devices Protect Lone Workers?
Different safety devices are designed to protect lone workers in different ways. Some have an in-built gas detector to warn lone workers of potentially dangerous leaks. Some offer fall detection or a man down alarm to alert colleagues to a trip or slip and others have a personal alarm that can be triggered if a lone worker feels threatened.
- Gas detection
- Automated check-in
- Fall detection
- Panic button
Personal alarm panic buttons are commonly used in hospitals, hotels and other sectors where lone workers are required to work in isolated areas. They’re especially useful in these industries because hospitality and healthcare workers are at an increased risk of experiencing inappropriate or threatening behavior in the workplace.
In many cases, simply introducing safety devices, and advertising this fact to guests, patients, customers, and co-workers, can help to reduce aggressive or inappropriate behavior. People are much less likely to become threatening if they know help is just moments away.
How Do Lone Worker Devices Function?
Most lone-worker safety solutions function by alerting colleagues or security personnel to an emergency situation. Wireless panic buttons for example provide the device monitoring service with the real-time location of the staff member. This allows security personnel, colleagues or the emergency services to reach the employee quickly if the alarm is triggered.
A simple lone worker app will require WIFI or cellular to work, something that’s not always available in isolated areas. Many wireless panic buttons and lone worker alarm devices work via Bluetooth, these can be used in areas of low signal or where WIFI isn’t reliable. Some satellite devices are also available but these are most appropriate for outdoor settings as they require a clear view of the sky.
Most lone worker devices function via:
- Cellular signal
Important Features to Look for in a Lone Worker Safety Device
The safety device you choose for your lone workers will depend on your premises, your location and your exact requirements. The most important features to consider are:
- Ease of use
- Automated check-ins
- Ability to report and update location accurately
Arguably the most important feature of any safety app, panic button or safety device is good functionality. For their own peace of mind, employees need to know their call for help will always be heard in emergency situations.
If your chosen device works via Bluetooth, make sure it uses a self-healing network with a backup to avoid any dead spots. If you’re relying on text messages, an hourly phone call or a safety app, you’ll need to ensure you have a good phone signal or strong WIFI. If you have areas with low or no signal, your lone workers could struggle to summon help in an emergency.
Lone worker safety solutions should also be easy to use. The simpler the devices are to operate, the easier it will be for employees to trigger them if they need to. Other features like fall detection and automated check-ins can also be useful when being used in remote locations away from the main worksite. These can be especially relevant when employees are operating machinery or working in areas where slips and trips are a hazard.
How to Determine Whether You Need a Lone Worker Safety Device
According to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all businesses that ask employees to work on their own should create a lone worker safety policy as part of their duty of care. Creating this policy should give you an insight into the risks your lone workers face and help you to decide if introducing a lone worker monitoring system will help to keep them safe.
If you’re still unsure if lone worker monitoring devices are required, you should carry out a full risk assessment of your workplace. This risk assessment should inform your lone worker policy and help you to protect all the people who work for you.
You can find out more about worker protection guidelines on the OSHA website.
As well as carrying out a risk assessment, it’s also a good idea to talk to your employees. Ask them if they would feel safer if issued with a panic button or other personal safety device. Not only will this consultation provide a great opportunity for your staff members to discuss their safety concerns, it will also show your employees that their safety is your top priority.
Lone worker safety devices can help employees operating alone to summon help quickly if they feel threatened, witness inappropriate behavior or suffer an accident or medical emergency in the workplace. They are also useful when a worker encounters someone else in need of assistance, as they are able to call for help without leaving that person alone.