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How a London council increased lone worker protection

28 January 2021

WHEN YOU'RE responsible for the health and safety of a large and varied workforce, with workers carrying out different roles within distinct departments and facing unique risks, ensuring that everyone has the tools they need to work safely can be a real challenge.

While streamlined policies and processes may be needed to provide a consistent approach, there’s often no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to keeping everybody safe 

This was the challenge facing the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC), a local authority with a duty of care towards almost 2000 employees working in a wide variety of roles, from social workers and office-based staff to park rangers and housing teams. A large number of the workforce must work alone or out of earshot of others, which means they’re classed as ‘lone workers’. Whenever someone works alone, they face an increased level of risk, because they have nobody with them to help them to make health and safety decisions or assist them in an emergency.

The RBKC had identified and put measures in place to mitigate the increased risk to these workers previously, but despite their efforts to protect lone workers by providing them with lone worker devices, a risk assessment highlighted a number of issues preventing employees from accessing these devices. The Council therefore acted quickly to address these issues and ensure all of their employees had the support they needed.

Increased risk to lone workers

The health and safety team’s risk assessment protocols identified several critical risks to their lone workers, including a lack of support in the event of an on-site accident or a road accident while travelling for work and the potential for aggression from residents when they were visiting people in their homes. 

Although some employees were already equipped with lone worker devices, a range of different solutions were being deployed across the organisation, with varying levels of service, features and cost. The health and safety team was concerned that some employees may not be receiving the best protection as a result.

They also found that many employees were unaware that this kind of worker protection was available to them, and with no standard, central supplier or pricing in place, managers weren’t confident in purchasing lone worker devices. There was also concern among pockets of employees that the devices would be used to ‘check up’ on them. 

Establishing consistency & confidence

RBKC’s health and safety team determined that they needed to find a central, preferred provider of lone worker solutions in order to give managers purchasing confidence and that they also needed to address misconceptions about the devices to encourage uptake among workers. As Ian Kimmett, Head of Corporate Health and Safety at RBKC, explains, “Two key actions were necessary: firstly, putting the right processes in place to make it easy for managers to obtain devices; secondly, supporting cultural change to reinforce the safety benefits of carrying devices to encourage adoption.”

After a formal tender process, RBKC selected Peoplesafe as its preferred provider. RBKC selected a combination of smartphone applications and the MySOS device fitted with roaming SIMs to counteract mobile blackspots. As the app is installed on a smartphone, and the MySOS device is small and discreet, both solutions were suitable for workers across all departments. 

Hands-on training encouraged workers to adopt and use the devices. Experienced trainers clearly explained the service and the practical features of the devices, ensuring workers understood how to access assistance when necessary. As external, independent experts, Peoplesafe’s trainers were also able to effectively bust the myth that lone worker devices would be used to ‘check up’ on employees, helping to support adoption. 

Finding the right solution

As the RBKC discovered, sometimes providing a lone worker solution for employees isn’t enough to provide them with adequate protection. But by focusing on finding solutions with the features they needed to enable their staff to work safely, educating employees on how to use them and streamlining the procurement process, the Council effectively increased adoption across the business. Now more than a fifth of their workforce is equipped with a lone worker solution. 

With the right technology in place, and with confident, empowered employees using them, even the largest organisations can ensure each and every employee has the protection they need, wherever and whenever they’re working.

For more information, visit www.peoplesafe.co.uk