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This is a guest article by Paul Turner, VP Sales & Marketing, Aware360. Ltd.
Over the past year or so, there has been an increasing emphasis on keeping lone workers safe. Particularly in trades, there have been examples of workers put in danger on the job with no way to easily call for assistance. The challenge is that employers and employees alike may not know when an employee is working alone. And then the processes employers implement to address the problem do not actually keep lone workers safe.
We’d like to explain what a lone worker is, some new technologies that help protect them, and how implementing these new technologies can actually free up more money to spend on operations.

What is a lone worker?

Thanks to evolving mobile technologies and entirely new kinds of work, about 25 million workers work alone across North America. Some of these workers travel to remote locations to monitor or maintain equipment. Long haul transport drivers also work alone. Others may be employed as security guards, safeguarding property and critical assets such as remotely located generators.
The challenge is that it is not always easy to identify a lone worker. Some workers may work alone for just part of the day. Other workers may not be recognized by their employer as working alone. This can have tragic consequences even when you least expect it, such as the death recently of a group home worker in Alberta.
However, employers have both a moral and legal obligation to keep lone workers safe.
According to BC OSHA regulations:
“To work alone or in isolation” means to work in circumstances where assistance would not be readily available to the worker in case of an emergency, or in case the worker is injured or in ill health.
The regulations go on to say that employers must establish procedures for checking well-being of lone workers, no matter where they may be working.

The Problem With Traditional Lone Worker Safety Programs

In order to comply with these regulations and also make sure their employees return to their families safely at the end of each shift, many companies rely on the telephone or emails for their lone worker safety programs.
This approach has at least two problems.

Problem 1: Employees hate phoning in

For employees, taking the time to stop what they’re doing and call in to HQ can completely disrupt their schedule. Managers and supervisors have a lot of other work to do anyway; their valuable time could be put to better use.

Problem 2: What if no one sees a call for help?

Even worse, what happens when an employee fails to phone in and the manager doesn’t notice? While the employee may simply be too busy to have made the call, there is also the possibility they’re in serious trouble and are unable to contact anyone for help.
Another problem with this approach is that employers are spending significant operational resources on lone worker safety solutions that don’t work, instead of growing their business and creating more jobs.
To solve this issue, some businesses pay third-party call centers to receive and make calls to workers to determine if they are safe. While this system is reliable, it’s also very costly.

Shift to Real-Time Alerts

Real-time alerts and notifications, based on new technologies and cheaper ways to communicate by cellphone or satellite, are making a big difference in keeping workers safe.
Instead of having to take time every couple hours to phone in, lone workers can instead touch a button on a mobile app to confirm they are safe. These real time apps also allow for workers to send alerts or an SOS when they need assistance or are in danger. The alert is then transmitted in real time to a monitor such as BC SafetyLink who can quickly follow a emergency protocol and send help if needed.
These real time devices and applications establish two-way communication, allowing the monitor to broadcast notifications to all employees for weather alerts, road conditions or for general information.

Increase Worker Productivity

So, not only do real time alerts protect your workforce, they also increase worker productivity and reduce the costs of human error – fewer people will be directly involved in facilitating lone worker safety, and the ones who are will spend less time doing so.
This diverts more operational resources to growing the business, and providing more work for employees.
For example, one of our monitoring partners uses the Aware360 software platform as well as integrated third party hardware to enable just two people to monitor over 5,000 personnel working in the field.
Most importantly, we know they are keeping their lone workers safe.
And that’s really what our work is all about.
Aware360 is Calgary-based Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions provider. We help hundreds of businesses become more efficient, increase revenue and keep their employees safe.