How technology can protect lone workers

Everbridge Australia
Friday, 14 January, 2022


Lone workers are employees that cannot be seen or heard by a colleague for either all or part of their working day. Think of in-home carers that visit vulnerable people. Or technicians that visit a site on their own. But that definition has broadened significantly through the pandemic. Workers that were traditionally in an office or working closely with others are now operating independently, making them more vulnerable to risks that they previously weren’t exposed to.

Organisations have a growing number of lone workers to whom they owe a duty of care. While much of the initial focus of the rapid shift to remote working targeted productivity, worker safety is equally, if not more, important.

There are a number of key issues for organisations to consider as the number of lone workers has increased. The most obvious changes are that the time and place of work has shifted. Instead of working in centralised offices, people are working from home, libraries, cafes and other locations. And their work hours are more flexible. Many workplaces, especially more progressive ones, have shifted their thinking from people working fixed hours to focusing on outcomes.

Communications have always been important but need to be adapted to increasingly remote work. For workers exposed to potentially hazardous situations, having the ability to easily respond to a message with a single tap or click, or having a duress alarm that can be easily activated can ensure that workers are safe. And that can include automatic escalation of an issue if a worker doesn’t respond to an alarm in a timely way.

When it comes to ensuring people’s safety, understanding where people are during an incident is vital. During an emergency, knowing where people are can make a marked difference in the nature and speed of the response. Instead of spending time looking for people, location-aware apps and services can tell you whether someone is in the danger zone so they can be notified. It also ensures people not directly impacted aren’t flooded with unnecessary messages.

The focus on location can be extended through the concept of a ‘safe corridor’. A safe corridor is a way that that a worker can transit with enhanced duty of care. As they are moving between two locations, if they don’t check-in with a defined time, a distress message is automatically triggered. In addition, it can trigger the automatic capture of audio and video so a quick reconnaissance can be carried out to assess the situation to ensure anyone coming to help the worker is not exposed to a dangerous situation without being properly prepared.

This type of geofencing can also be used to alert people when they enter a potentially hazardous environment. For example, if a field worker is entering a site that has poor ventilation or a requirement for specific personal protective equipment (PPE), they can receive an automatic alert as they enter the area. While there may be concerns about privacy, these can be allayed by only enabling these fences when they are required and by ensuring the employee proactively shares their location.

With more and more people working independently and remotely, organisations need to ensure they maintain their duty of care obligations. They can no longer rely on most team members being in the same place or that traditional communications methods will reach people in a timely way. Services, such as those offered by Everbridge can be used to provide panic button capability on smartphones, tablets and wearables and automated check in using geo-location and safe corridors.

The right technology can help organisations mitigate the risks of a growing number of lone workers.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/insta_photos

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