The evolution of ‘lone worker’ communications

The term ‘lone worker’ now encompasses a broader class of employees

The evolution of ‘lone worker’ communications
The “lone workforce” is expanding at a rapid pace and is no longer limited to the manufacturing industry.
Shelly Bond

Once a phrase associated with security patrols or industrial settings, the term “lone worker” has been redefined in the modern day to represent a new, broader class of employees across various industries. Today, any worker whose job involves being out of sight and out of earshot of fellow employees is considered a lone worker - including employees in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, hospitality and more.

Industry sources estimate that the lone worker population will reach more than 1.1 million by 2022. As these positions become more common, industry leaders will face new challenges in protecting employees, particularly if they are unfamiliar with the complexities of lone worker safety.

While the number of available protection solutions on the market is increasing to meet the needs of lone workers, facility managers should pay close attention to the features and capabilities that will truly help provide a safe environment for their modern lone workers.

Real-time Staff Monitoring

Real-time safety is a significant priority when it comes to protecting lone workers, primarily due to the individualized nature of their work. If the technology in place does not allow your team to respond quickly and accurately to a problem, lone staff members can find themselves in a dangerous situation.

Historically, lone worker safety has relied on a system of manual check-ins at predetermined times, and in many workplaces, this is still the norm. Unfortunately, this means red flags may be raised too late. A worker under attack or suffering from injury may not be able to get the help they need while a team member waits idly for their arrival at routine check-in. Workers need a solution that immediately transmits their location and status when a problem arises.

Take, for example, hotel workers – a particularly vulnerable group usually working individually and without direct supervision. Imagine a housekeeping staff member is working a late-night shift and is approached by a threatening guest. It’s vital they have a personal alarm solution that can alert colleagues and security personnel right away. Hotels, like many other types of workplaces, often have unique floor plans and layouts, so having a solution that can locate the origin of an alarm with room-level accuracy is another key element to maintaining worker safety.

Targeted Alert and Notification Systems

Many manufacturing workers are also highly mobile lone workers in large, physically complex buildings. The ability to send and receive data in real-time is key to enhancing safety in these environments, and facility managers need mobility technology that integrates personal alarm functionalities with telephony, messaging and monitoring.

An advanced mobility ecosystem streamlines the communication process, removing the need to manually determine a point of contact. When personal security alarms are triggered, whether it be from a “man-down” or “no-movement” signal, these notifications can be automatically routed to a pre-set chain of recipients.

If a worker is incapacitated, it is already too late for them to manually notify a co-worker or supervisor. However, an organization can use an integrated security solution to predetermine which staff members will respond to an emergency, as well as provide them with instructions on how to proceed based on the circumstances of the emergency. In doing so, an organization can send the person who is closest or best equipped to address the situation.

An integrated communication system should include an alert system capable of real-time staff monitoring, risk notification and alert escalation. 

Durability and Reliability

Perhaps the most critical aspect of safety solutions for lone workers, regardless of industry, is dependability. Devices need to be durable enough to function at full capacity in harsh conditions or extreme temperatures. If a device is unable to withstand demanding environments, members of your team can be left exposed to safety threats in the event of equipment failure. A dependable solution keeps lone workers safe in other ways, too. With today’s workplaces focused more than ever on health precautions, reliable devices should also be able to withstand frequent sanitation and disinfection.

A key indicator of a device’s overall reliability is a third-party certification, such as Google’s Android Enterprise Recommended program, which conducts rigorous testing on enterprise devices and services to measure the ruggedization of such solutions. Several other organizations conduct testing for the dependability of enterprise solutions, with some focused on job-specific factors like resistance to water, vibration, mechanical shock, temperature or humidity.

Implementing a security solution for your workers that has been certified by a program like Android Enterprise Recommended, or one of its counterparts, can provide valuable peace of mind.

Looking forward

The “lone workforce” is expanding at a rapid pace and is no longer limited to the manufacturing industry. Leaders across a wide cross-section of industries – from retail and hospitality to the energy sector – need safety features that fit their modern needs. The ability to communicate personal security threats, safety alarms and other types of real-time data accurately and quickly is paramount, in addition to strong reliability, constant connectivity and usability in the harshest working conditions.