New and Emerging Trends in Lone Worker Protection
As innovative workplace strategies allow fewer employees to handle greater responsibilities, employers have a responsibility to protect their workers efficiently and affordably.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the private sector in 2017. While this number represents a welcome decline of nearly 49,000 such instances compared to the year prior, it still underscores the risks that employees face in multiple industries.
Nowhere is this threat more pronounced, however, than for lone workers — that is, employees who work out of sight, out of earshot, or out of the geographic range of other team members. The risks that these workers face are readily apparent. From heavy-duty machinery to toxic chemicals — not to mention the threat of physical or sexual violence for employees who work alone but with strangers outside of company control — those who work in isolation need a safety net to protect them from a variety of on-the-job threats.
That’s where lone worker protection factors in. A budding industry that analysts predict will reach $289 million in value in Europe and North America by 2021, lone worker protection technology seeks to safeguard employee wellbeing and enterprise assets simultaneously. In this way, lone worker protection provides employees with the peace of mind that their employers have an “eye” on them, allowing them to work more confidently and with greater efficiency. For businesses, these strategies can cut down on costly “buddy system” alternatives and do more to protect valuable assets that require around-the-clock supervision.
If your business is considering investing in lone worker protection strategies, you have a considerable range of choices at your disposal. However, before you dive in, ensure that you understand how lone worker protection has operated in the past, what challenges are disrupting these models, and what forward-looking options you have to choose from.
Traditional Lone Worker Protection
In the past, lone worker protection technology has relied on time-consuming, labor-intensive, and, ultimately, ineffective strategies. For instance, employees working on their own have had to abide by prescheduled check-ins with supervisors or outsourced vendors, either in person, over the phone, or via text.
For today’s businesses, the disadvantages of this model of lone worker protection are clear. Workers may miss pre-scheduled calls for innocuous reasons or they may have to attend to responsibilities that, while urgent, don’t pose a threat to their health or to company assets. This means that supervisors may jump to conclusions or initiate costly emergency responses when they’re not needed.
Evolving Challenges to Traditional Models
On the other end of the spectrum, these strategies are not particularly effective in the event that a worker is actually incapacitated or at risk in some way — and this is where new challenges to these models come into play. As IoT and AI investment results in fewer workers on factory floors, at oil and gas facilities, and in labs, stakeholders need a clearer picture of lone worker status than phone calls and text-based check-ins can provide on their own.
For instance, if a worker misses a call or text, supervisors have little information to go off. Even if a lone worker is in danger, other employees may not know who in particular is at risk, where they are, or any additional details that could help them figure out the best way to respond. Encouragingly, innovative products in the lone worker protection industry are changing that.
Upcoming Trends for Lone Worker Protection
Where previous systems simply created alerts that would tip supervisors off to a missed check-in without providing much other information, new systems are working to anticipate a range of threats, furnish first responders with useful data, and give lone workers greater peace of mind.
A number of mobile solutions are being introduced into the lone worker protection space, as well. The problem is that these solutions all run on hardware (smart phones) that wasn’t purpose-built for lone worker protection. The result is that technologies like GPS, WiFi, 4G/cellular, and Bluetooth — which work so well when it comes to consumer connectivity — often fall woefully short in lone worker protection applications.
Apps like GeoPro offer features like location tracking, man down alerts, and check-in schedules with auto alerts. But what if your employees are working underground where there’s no GPS or cell signal? Or in the basement of a building where there has been no effort made to ensure proper WiFi propagation? What if the WiFi simply goes down? The way that workers tend to use their mobile devices also presents a challenge — they share them, leave them to charge, and often let the battery drain to zero.
Lone worker alarms have to be foolproof. 95 percent isn’t good enough in this space, where a missed alarm can mean the difference between life and death, and a missed check-in can mean a costly (and unnecessary) rescue operation.
That’s why new lone worker protection systems that rely on wireless repeaters have increasingly become the solution of choice. Designed to run on their own foolproof wireless network even when the power runs out, these powerful systems have transformed worker safety as we know it.
The TTI Guardian Lone Worker Alarm, for example, offers multiple ways to protect workers and provide supervisors with the vision they need. Whether lone workers are in the lab, on the factory floor, or performing maintenance, the Guardian system allows them to signal a duress situation with the press of a button. Additionally, a man-down alarm and a no-response alert ensure that workers are protected even if they can’t respond, giving their peers crucial location information that minimizes the time wasted on pinpointing their whereabouts.
Trustworthy Solutions for Lone Worker Protection
Investing in lone worker protection does more than keep your assets safe. It signals to your team that you care about their wellbeing, thereby improving workplace safety and satisfaction, something that can cut down on employee turnover. If you’re looking to develop lone worker protection strategies for your enterprise, consider how an experienced partner can help.
At Turn-key Technologies, our Guardian system has the flexibility and reliability your team needs to work safely, even in isolated environments ranging from healthcare and lab work to maintenance and construction. With nearly three decades of experience in workplace security and protection, our team has the training and resources to protect your team and assets.
By Craig Badrick