There has been significant growth in the number of businesses addressing the issue of lone worker security. For many, taking advantage of lone worker security apps has been one successful safety solution. However, there are many scenarios in which employees not classified as lone workers could face similar health and safety risks and could also benefit from lone worker security apps.
It has been estimated that 15 percent of the workforce in North America falls into the classification of a lone worker - an employee who conducts tasks without supervision or support from colleagues. In many cases, lone workers are exposed to health and safety risks that would not occur in a multi-occupancy environment. For example, there is likely no one available to assist them should an adverse event occur.
In recent years there has been a significant growth in the number of businesses addressing the issue of lone worker security due to state-imposed occupational safety laws, increasing employee insurance premiums, and greater awareness of the health and safety risks faced by lone workers. According to one study, the market for lone worker protection devices is growing by 19 percent year-on-year.
The fastest growing segment of this market is lone worker security apps. These have substantial advantages over portable and wearable devices because as an employee is more likely to remember their mobile phone than a GPS tracking device (and keep it charged), software updates are automatic, and the cost of a safety app is significantly lower than a lone worker protection device.
There is also an argument that lone worker security apps should be made available to all employees. There are many employees who are not classified as lone workers, but who frequently find themselves in situations where they are confronted by similar health and safety risks. This article examines the risks, how lone worker security apps can mitigate those risks, and how they could be used to create a safer and more productive workplace environment.
Lone Worker Security and Health Risks
Security officers, delivery agents, shop workers, environmental health officers, maintenance workers, salesmen/saleswomen and mobile workers (i.e. taxi drivers) are among the many professions in which lone workers can find themselves in confrontational situations with dissatisfied or unpredictable members of the public. These circumstances should be considered in an employer's risk assessment and measures put in place to enhance lone worker security.
Additional health and safety risks for lone workers exist when an unavoidable accident occurs and there is no one available to assist them. According to the latest available OSHA Workplace Fatality statistics, fatal work injuries from slips, trips and falls increased by 25 percent in 2016 in professions where the victims were typically lone workers (carpenters, tree trimmers, tractor-trailer truck drivers, etc.).
If some of these fatally-injured workers had an employer periodically checking on their wellbeing - even remotely - several of them might have survived. An employer unable to get a response from his or her lone worker could call emergency services or dispatched another employee to investigate the reason for the lack of a response. This process only requires a simple policy to be put in place and the technology to carry it out, yet it could save many lives.
How Other Employees Face Similar Risks
Employees classified as lone workers are not unique in experiencing violence initiated by a member of the public or unavoidable accidents when no one is available to assist them. Employees in many professions can encounter confrontational situations with dissatisfied or unpredictable members of the public. These professions include:
- State and local government employees - including elected officials.
- Teachers - who can be the victims of violence perpetrated by students, parents, and colleagues.
- Realtors - who are at risk at each property they visit and also traveling between appointments.
- Computer Engineers - who often work alone, late at night, and in frustrated clients' premises.
- Restaurant and Bar Managers - who are often the last to leave and frequently carrying cash.
Employees in multi-occupancy environments also have the additional health and safety risks of colleague-on-colleague violence and workplace bullying. In fact, there are many examples of employees being in situations where they face a similar number - or more - health and safety risks than lone workers, and in which a lone worker safety app could either be used to summon assistance, report an adverse event, or be used by an employer to identify an unresponsive worker.
How Lone Worker Security Apps Work
Lone worker security apps are multifunctional apps that fulfill a number of roles. Usually connected to a system maintained by the business's security team, the apps can be used to call 911 directly or contact a key group of colleagues simultaneously with the press of an icon. In the case of a lone worker, this feature would connect him or her with the business's security team and colleagues working closest by.
The apps also have an automatic check-in safety timer. This function is set by the employee for a fixed period of time and, should the timer reach zero before the employee deactivates it, an alert is sent to the business's security team and a key group of colleagues. This overcomes the issue of employers having to periodically check-in on lone workers, remote workers, or any employee who may be working in a location where an accident may go unnoticed for a prolonged period of time.
While the check-in safety timer is activated, the employee's location is tracked by GPS. This can be of particular benefit for any employee who travels from site to site, as it means their wellbeing can be monitored by the lone worker security system before the timer reaches zero. The GPS tracking feature can also be used by emergency services to locate an unresponsive employee after an accident.
For employees subject to workplace bullying, the app can be used to send anonymous tips to security personnel, or this function can be used to report hazards that could cause an injury to another staff member. The lone worker security system can also be integrated with other personal safety systems (i.e. Smart911) to further enhance the protection provided to all employees.
The Benefits of Lone Worker Security for All Employees
Although the provision of “a safe and healthful workplace” should be a right enjoyed by all employees, there are many who are still are exposed to health and safety risks on a daily basis. Employers should - and in some states are required to - ensure all employees are given the protection they need to mitigate the risks, irrespective of whether they work in a brick-and-mortar environment or work alone.
The extension of lone worker security systems to all employees can result in a reduction of workplace bullying, fewer workers' compensation claims, and lower employer insurance premiums. Furthermore, the provision of a security system for all employees affirms the employer's commitment to safety, which in turn elevates staff morale, increases productivity and improves employee retention.
With regard to cost, once a lone worker security system is established, the cost of operating it is minimal. Costs will barely fluctuate whether there are two lone workers being protected by the system or two thousand office-based employees. Consequently, it makes perfect sense to make lone worker safety apps available to all employees - both financially and to best protect employees against health and safety risks in every workplace environment.