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Risk management in a time of 'lone danger'

10 July 2015

In the era of the Lone Danger - what risks are workers and businesses exposed to? Paul Smith, managing director, ANT Telecom, explains.

The number of people in the UK classified as lone workers is growing rapidly. Some work in hazardous environments such as oil or gas refineries, others work in isolation within manufacturing plants, factories or construction sites. And outside of these, countless employees work alone in high-risk or perilous conditions at unsociable hours. However, whilst their place of work may be remote, their status as lone workers is often obvious and defined by their job specification meaning they are increasingly equipped with lone worker solutions.
But what of the additional millions of employees that, through the course of their everyday routines, are exposed to similar periods of isolation – yet their vulnerability is disguised by a job description that does not reflect the reality? The UK workforce is full of ‘accidental’ lone workers whose jobs make them susceptible to the inherent risk of lone working by stealth – but whose employers are oblivious to the potential dangers. A company’s failure to be alerted to an emergency situation and to escalate and respond to it appropriately can have dramatic – potentially fatal – consequences.
If we look at what constitutes an accidental lone worker, in each case, the considerations are simple: what happens if an inadvertent lone worker suffers an accident or incident? And what systems are in place to alert colleagues and escalate a response? If the answer is ‘none’, how will anyone know that an emergency situation is unfolding and respond to it quickly and appropriately?
The scenarios are however not limited to remote locations. For example, businesses could have staff working unusual hours alone and unless companies have communication with them, how do they know what is happening to their workforce during this period? In many companies, a continued reliance on primitive paper-based records, electronic calendars or whiteboard day planners provides an inadequate and passive means of tracking employee safety.
And with the recent introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter Act, the first prosecution under which related to a lone worker, organisations know that they are ultimately responsible for the safety of all their employees – and that their ability to protect lone workers, both atypical and ‘accidental’, is imperative.
So as UK businesses face up to their duty of care to employees in an increasingly regulated workforce environment, the need to equip both actual and accidental lone workers with the most appropriate systems of communication is considerable.
While a one-size-fits-all approach to protecting lone workers does not exist, there is a silver bullet in that with good advice, the right partner and a full under

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