Dave Whittle, CEO at Positive Response, discusses lone workers in his latest blog for Infologue.com. Dave writes: “The term ‘lone worker’ often evokes an image in our minds of a person working unaccompanied, without direct supervision: usually a security guard patrolling a site in the evenings, a petrol forecourt worker, a person making deliveries, or some kind of sales or estate agent travelling to commercial and residential properties.
“However, with the current economic circumstances forcing businesses to find new ways of streamlining operations and improving the efficiency of processes and resources, staff from a wide range of industries find themselves without support and placed in vulnerable situations. Lone working is increasingly becoming the norm for cleaners and maintenance staff in large buildings, for retail workers closing a shop in the evening, and for care or community workers visiting unknown situations and environments.
“Lone working is a potentially dangerous situation where staff health, safety and wellbeing can be negatively affected. There is a risk of physical harm, either from violent, angry customers or accidental injury. But there is also a risk of psychological and emotional harm from verbal abuse, threats of assault, and a feeling of vulnerability from a lack of support.
“Interestingly, among the key changes in the new health and safety guidelines, published by the Sentencing Council, is the addition of targeting vulnerable victims as an aggravating feature. This highlights the seriousness of lone working situations, focusing on the duty of care of businesses to identify all potential hazards to their staff and taking the necessary steps to prevent them, including re-evaluating their security solutions.
“For many businesses, particularly in the retail sector, CCTV cameras and alarm systems are the most popular method of securing a site and offering staff protection. However, both come with major drawbacks for lone workers. Cameras provide evidence after a crime is committed, should the police need to become involved, but they offer limited comfort during an incident and do very little to help diffuse the situation. Alarms are capable of frightening criminals away and alerting the authorities. However, many people are apprehensive about activating them as they fear being reprimanded by the business or the police for wasting time. Both cameras and alarms fail to offer staff the much needed feeling of being supported before, during and after an incident has occurred.
“One solution to this is to look at a more sophisticated, specialist system, such as a 24 hour audio monitoring and response service, operated by trained external staff. Through a combined use of CCTV, microphones, loudspeakers, PIR two-way communication and trained staff, most situations can be managed before they escalate and become harmful. The operators can defuse a situation, reassure staff and, if deemed necessary, contact the emergency services. Being actively encouraged to raise the alarm, and knowing that they are being monitored, is invaluable for lone workers; not only are they safer but they feel actively supported at work”.
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