Alone again or

03 March 2016

Chris Shaw talks to Mathew Colley, sales & marketing manager at LoneALERT, about the current - and future - lone worker protection industry.

What exactly is a lone worker?

A lone worker is someone who works alone, remotely or who is vulnerable. The word lone worker has evolved in recent years and in fact the term ‘people at risk’ would be better suited as this encompasses those that work in all industries and in all types of roles. Lone working is about people. And every worker has the right to feel safe as they do their job - whatever job that may be.

How does a lone worker device help?

There are a multitude of different solutions, but in a nutshell a lone worker device coupled with an intuitive platform, displaying real time data on lone workers can help to keep lone workers protected. It offers both the employee and the employer a peace of mind that in the event of an incident the right systems are in place to get them help immediately.

What are the key considerations for an organisation when selecting lone worker protection for their staff?

The driving force should always be to ensure that the chosen product is fit for purpose for all staff, in whatever job role. Small organisations may find that one type of lone worker device suits all lone workers in their organisation, but a larger company is likely to find different job roles - or indeed personalities - require different solutions or devices. Equipping each individual with the appropriate device - appropriate for risk level and technical competence - goes a long way to maximising staff satisfaction and confidence.

In your opinion, how do you think the changes in recent legislation will affect this industry?

There’s still no actual law in place specifically addressing lone working in the UK, but the new legislation is bringing health & safety to the forefront, with employers becoming more and more aware that it is their responsibility to provide a duty of care for their staff or face the consequences of a hefty fine and potentially irrefutably-damaged reputation should the worst happen.

Generally, what sort of technology solutions exist for organisations to select from?

There are five main lone worker solutions:

  • Telephone-based solutions - landline / smartphone. These use the persons own mobile phone and turn it into a lone worker device, allowing them to raise an alert discretely or log their location and activity.
  • Dedicated device based - e.g. fall sensors, dedicated panic buttons that are designed as lone worker protection devices and fulfil that purpose very well.
  • Infrastructure solutions - e.g. a base unit and handsets with its own communication channel. These work in fixed locations and generally have a series of pager type devices which operate when within range of a central signaling station.
  • Radio-based solutions. These are similar to the infrastructure devices in that they work well across a small area, but can easily move out of range for a mobile workforce. Radio black spots can also exist even in relatively small sites.
  • Satellite-based solutions - These are ideal for those working in wider geographic areas with poor mobile signal, enabling people to remain in contact regardless of signal strength.

Should an organisation adopt just one method of lone worker monitoring or should they have a mix of solutions?

This does depend largely on the organisation, the role and the risk profiles. Nevertheless it is vital to work with a lone worker solution provider that can offer a mix of solutions and technologies to give an employer the flexibility of devices for their staff, as opposed to a like it or lump it approach.

Furthermore, technology moves quickly and advances offer a lot in lone worker protection devices. So, a company that can keep up with emerging technologies means they can consider the most advanced solutions throughout their contract to protect their employees.

Finally, what are your thoughts on how the lone worker protection industry will evolve over the next few years?

It is an exciting time to be working in the lone working industry. It originated in the UK as an industry concept, and ourselves along with other industry partners are leading its growth as an international concept and improving lone worker safety standards.

Over the past 18 months alone, I have seen a real change in people’s attitudes to lone workers. It is no longer the most vulnerable who are seen as the only lone workers, but people are beginning to realise that any worker working alone, in any environment or industry is vulnerable. I even have some clients who use our solutions to equip teams of individuals to provide additional protection.

Coming from a technology background, I’m always excited about new technology and keeping an eye on some of the technology coming over the horizon. I’m looking forward to being involved in using this to impact positively the products and service we offer our clients, and more importantly, the safety of lone workers in all industries all over the world.

We have our eye on a few emerging technologies, some of which may be game changers if they progress as we think they might.