Lone worker protection news from Andrew Tillman, director at G2MLoneResQ
Leeds, West Yorkshire -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/26/2012 -- Market research that we conducted in partnership with Nokia identified that there are over six million lone workers in the UK, yet surprisingly few are protected by anything more than a mobile phone and instruction to call 999 in the event of an emergency.
Even before the publication of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, the Health and Safety at Work Act firmly established in 1974 that employers have a duty of care to protect their employees.
However, nearly forty years since the Health and Safety Act came into force and almost five years since the Corporate Manslaughter Act was given Royal assent, the number of assaults on individuals at work continues to rise and employers are, in general, failing to provide even the most rudimentary protection for their Lone Workers.
Our survey with Nokia revealed that over 20% of employees can be classed as Lone Workers (ie. those working without direct supervision) and with a working population in the UK of around 30 million people, the six million number is an easy calculation but, nevertheless, a significant number.
From our industry experience and talking to some of the major UK ARCs (Alarm Receiving Centers) and Lone Worker protection providers, there are probably a maximum of 300,000 employees in the UK who have some form of third party Lone Worker protection - just 5% of all the people potentially at risk.
A significant number of these workers are in the health sector as the NHS is one employer who has definitely taken up the baton to protect its employees.
We are all aware of the huge burden in terms of insurance premiums within the healthcare sector. Lone Worker solutions not only protect their users but also minimise the potential for claims. This makes those protected workers a less risky proposition and thereby reduces costs in the organisation, both in terms of insurance costs and potential claims from injured parties.
We could take a cynical view that the level of uptake in the health sector is as much to safeguard against potential litigation, as it is to safeguard Lone Workers.
However, there are a great many businesses that take their duty of care and corporate social responsibilities very seriously. Wherever we may feel the weighting lies between genuine concern for safety and mitigation of business risk is not really relevant as long as the end-result is a better-protected workforce.
Businesses generally only buy products that can clearly demonstrate a return on investment and Lone Worker protection is no different. As the industry sells systems based on the reduction of risk and the fact that the cost of the system would be far outweighed by a single significant claim, then it’s not surprising that litigation protection often forms an important part of the buying decision.
Whatever the actual motivation for the up-take in the health sector, as long as it results in increased safety for vulnerable individuals, then it has to be worthwhile.
The real issue is how do we encourage the purchase of systems in the 95% of Lone Workers who still have little or no protection?
The answer, of course, is more affordable and reliable products, utilising technology and hardware that businesses already provide to their employees.
Why spend £200-£400 on a second device for your employees when a growing number of them already have one in their pocket or handbag – their mobile phone.
In the last year, providers reported an upswing in the industry towards Lone Worker Applications that run on mobile devices, as opposed to costly dedicated hardware.
There is a sound rationale for a secondary product in some situations of course but, if cost is a major consideration (and these days when isn’t it?), and a business has already equipped its employees with smartphones, then all the employer need buy is an Application that will run on the existing device, with either in-house monitoring or, preferably, via a BS5979 CATII certified ARC.
Providers of specialist devices will, no doubt, wave their hands in the air and shout about compliance, BS8484 and designed for purpose etc. but surely this is simply an argument about cost and suitability. After all, BS8484 was originally created before the smartphone became ubiquitous. I think most of us would agree, that it is time that we looked at the standard and how it may be developed in future to ensure that it provides both guidelines and safeguards for those using common mobile devices.
Most businesses now believe that it is far more important that the protection afforded is effective, rather than merely complying with regulations which will always struggle to cover the fast-moving changes in device technology.
If a business can’t afford an expensive dedicated lone worker device for each employee, then surely it makes sense to utilise the technology they already have, rather than have no protection at all simply because it doesn’t ‘fully’-comply with BS8484.
So yes, we in the industry need to act responsibly and explain to companies the BS8484 standard and why it is best practice to buy a system that fully complies (as many modern mobiles do).
However, if they already have suitable devices and simply don’t have the budget to buy additional equipment then, as long as they understand the shortcomings and any potential risks associated with a particular device not being ‘fully-compliant’, let’s make sure they have other affordable and reliable options that will still protect Lone Workers and save lives; which is surely the most important consideration.
Maybe then we will start to make serious inroads into the 5.7 million unprotected lone-workers in the UK.
Andrew Tillman has over 16 years experience in tracking and mobile technologies as a founder and Director of Minorplanet PLC and then as Strategic Development Director of Masternaut and CEO of Three X Communication. He is currently a founder and Director of G2M LoneResQ, a leading provider of Lone Worker and other Safety-related solutions.