technologies

New technologies are literally saving the lives of modern lone workers

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The factories of the days to come will rely on the extensive networking of production. Enterprise mobility solutions will provide access to processes and data, allowing businesses to improve both the safety of their employees as well as their productivity. In firms operating on expansive plant factories, workers often work alone, being out of sight and earshot of other colleagues, even in hazardous or risky areas. They are very frequently exposed to higher risks and need immediate help in the event of an emergency.

The employer needs to guarantee that an incident is detected instantly and that the aid chain is set in motion immediately. This requirement needs to also be fulfilled in the case where the victim of an incident is unable to take action and other colleagues have not noticed the incident. In these situations and environments, there is the legal obligation to implement a lone worker protection system that has been both tested and certified.

Lone workers have be equipped with an alarm signal device that can detect a critical incident utilising position sensors and configured patterns, and hence triggers an alarm accordingly. The device needs to be able to establish a visual and audio connection to the victim of the incident, so that they will be able to communicate even if they are not able to move. If the worker doesn’t respond, the control centre can utilise this connection to initially evaluate the situation without any further input.

Working remotely with unreliable coverage

In remote places with a very limited connectivity, a lone worker safety device needs to be able to switch seamlessly between satellite and cellular connectivity.

Workers may need to travel to oil or gas wells as well as construction sites where mobile phone coverage is limited and unreliable. These workers require a solution that can provide comprehensive connectivity no matter where they are.

While workers may be sent to work sites in pairs or as part of a team or crew, they may end up working alone, out of eyesight and contact from other colleagues or team members. The employer needs to implement a thorough plan to keep them safe.

In this kind of scenarios, lone workers may use certain devices to check in, call for help, or send an emergency message:

– A smart band paired with a mobile phone application to send an emergency or SOS message

– A lone worker app can also send updates as well as notifications over a mobile network

– A pendant, if connected to a car or vehicle equipped with a modem, is also able to send an emergency or SOS message

– When there is not the option of a mobile phone contact, a satellite device can be utilised to check in and also to send notifications to the monitor

A manual check is not a monitoring system

Situations where a lone worker gets injured are a devastating reality for too many workers who carry out their duties alone. Employees working alone, for instance contractors, upstream and midstream oil and gas employees, utility workers, and many others face similar hazards and risks as their on-site peers, but they are at an increased risk as they cannot rely on a colleague or passerby to aid them in the event of an emergency. When they face a dangerous situation while on the job, it can actually be hours or even days before assistance arrives. The independent work that many lone workers enjoy is the very same factor that puts these lone workers at such a high risk.

Many businesses rely on manual check ins for their lone worker safety policy, where the employees contact safety managers and supervisors at pre-determined intervals to double-check and confirm their status. However, if you rely on manual check ins alone, your workers are clearly at risk. When a worker misses a manual check in, what will you do? Will you assume they forgot? Or will you immediately call for help, assuming it could be a false alarm? Here this choice can make the difference between a tragedy or a person going home safely.

The importance of keeping lone workers safe

Thanks to smartphones and mobile devices, workers are often untethered from working in one specific physical space. Many workers will initially start to work alone for part of their workday. The challenge for business owners and managers is to identify these “at-risk” employees, and then to implement meaningful procedures to keep them completely safe.

Understanding this shift in work is the very first step in addressing their safety. After that, managers and supervisors need to determine what lone worker solution is truly effective for their employees.

Worker safety truly is of utmost importance, and it can actually be difficult to monitor, particularly in certain situations. Supervisors and managers cannot be expected to be and look at all places constantly. Employees and workers need to understand that whether alone or working in a group, they can’t take risks when it comes to their safety. Lone workers need to understand that with no other colleagues present or even nearby, the full responsibility to keep themselves safe and sounds, to follow all the rules set out for their work, tasks and activities, and to not take any unnecessary risk, falls solely on their shoulders. In case you can actually prevent your employees and workers from being alone, then just do it. But if you cannot, then make sure you have done everything that is possible to keep your workers safe and secure.

Training

All of the above rules mean absolutely nothing if your workers are unfamiliar with them. Once you have developed a lone worker policy, ensure you train your workers so that they are not taking any unnecessary risks over their workday. They should be thoroughly trained on how to communicate and how to summon emergency assistance, and what they shouldn’t and should do while they are alone. Most importantly, they need to be trained to call and check anytime they are unsure.

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