Lone workers Safety culture

NSC publishes white paper on lone worker monitoring technology


Photo: SimonSkafar/iStockphoto

Washington — A new white paper from the National Safety Council is intended to help employers identify and implement monitoring technology to keep lone workers safe.

An estimated 15% of employees work alone, NSC says, and nearly 70% of employers who responded to a 2021 survey reported a safety incident involving a lone worker over the previous three years. Around 20% of those incidents were described as “quite” or “very” severe.

“Lone work can be beneficial for both organizations and employees, allowing for more flexibility and a greater utilization of resources, but this practice also comes with heightened risk for workers,” said Katherine Mendoza, senior director of workplace programs at NSC. “Every employee deserves to work in an environment where safety risks are minimized, and this white paper helps business leaders do just that by providing a playbook for understanding the unique hazards isolated workers face and how industry-specific technology can be used to save lives and prevent injuries.”

Using findings from several academic databases and a pair of case studies, the paper identifies the key benefits of lone worker monitoring technologies, which include fall detection devices, proximity sensors, mobile apps and panic alarms.

Some of those benefits:
Enabling two-way communication. Most lone workers report frequently working outside of cellphone coverage areas. Monitoring devices, many of which are equipped with GPS capabilities, allow employers to stay connected to their workers and provide the ability to take immediate action in case of an emergency.
Enhancing safety capabilities. Many monitoring devices available to employers are packaged with additional safety functionalities that can detect and alert the wearer to hazardous situations, such as gas emissions, heat exposure and proximity to dangerous machinery.
Increasing cost-savings. Monitoring devices can streamline the otherwise cumbersome task of checking in with lone workers through email, phone calls or calendars, and ultimately increase overall efficiency.

The paper also provides guidance to help organizations tailor safety solutions to lone workers:
Identify the type of industry and associated risk of the workflow. For example, health care employees, who may be susceptible to workplace violence incidents while working alone, may benefit from discreet duress alarms to avoid escalating a hazardous situation, while audible alarms may be more suitable for outdoor workers.
Consider the ease of scalability. In addition to assessing the number of potential users, organizations should consider how new devices will integrate with existing technology. Although mobile apps are a turnkey, cost-effective way for larger organizations to incorporate lone worker monitoring, smaller companies should assess the benefits and cost effectiveness of adopting additional capabilities.

The paper also examines barriers to adoption of technology, including concerns over individual or data privacy. NSC recommends involving workers during the adoption process; educating employees on the benefits and limitations of technology; and practicing transparency on how data will be encrypted, stored and used.

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