How To Improve Lone Worker Protection And Workplace Safety?
This year's LONE WORKER SAFETY 2014 Conference & Exhibition is taking place on Tuesday 26th November 2013 at London's great Olympia Conference Centre... and it is once again all about improving the protection of lone workers.
We have to accept the fact that local government employees, such as parking enforcement, environmental health, housing officers, as well as and social workers, security guards, civil enforcement officers, and others working for utility, insurance or other private firms can be at risk.
It's easy to come up with examples of workers who spend time on their own and whose work is likely to bring them face to face with irate or aggressive members of the public. But to the list of vulnerable lone workers we now have to add paramedics, public transport employees, market researchers, even community nurses; people whose jobs are either innocuous or should put them on the side of the angels.
There is no agreement on the reasons for increased violence against public-facing workers, but what is clear is that employers have to take seriously their legal duty to protect their employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. When sending their lone workers out into this increasingly hostile environment, these health & safety professionals now must be sure the protection and security of their workforce has been given plenty of consideration, and everything appropriate is done to ensure their safety.
More and more organisations are adopting lone worker policies and lone worker safety training, backed up in some cases by new lone worker protection technology and monitoring devices to raise the alarm when they run into trouble.
So what are the key elements that can help you to effectively improve lone worker lone worker protection? I will just highlight VERY briefly what I think are the most important elements you want to have covered (however, I am of course more than happy to put you in contact with professionals specialised in any of the below fields)
Lone Worker Protection Policies
The intention of a lone worker policy is to ensure the protection and safety of lone workers or staff who sometimes work alone, by minimising the risks that they face and putting in place appropriate measures to improve their safety.
A good lone worker policy should at least cover the following key topics:
- Legal requirements
- Applicable Laws
- Places of Work
- Personal responsibility
- Working outside normal hours
- Risk Assessment
- Health & Safety
- Safe System of Work
- Organisational responsibilities
This year's LONE WORKER SAFETY 2013 Conference & Exhibition will have an entire 40 minutes speaker slot to cover this so very important subject. I would like you to come and see us in case this subject is of interest or in case you are charged with designing and completing a lone worker safety policy.
Lone Worker Protection Training
Statistics suggest it would be wise to train vulnerable staff working alone to deal with aggression when they are faced with it. Self defence training is a very controversial option since many experts argue that it can send staff the wrong message, which would be to stay and fight... and subsequently this might get them into even more trouble... when their best defence actually would be to run away. I am very unsure about such argument. I would rather equip lone workers with all available tools to survive in case things get out of hand. Not allowing lone workers to have 'all access' to all available tools is something I seem to struggle with?
But conflict resolution training, aimed at helping employees diffuse aggression before it escalates, is becoming more and more popular... and righty so. However, please make sure you pick a trainer who knows what he/she is talking about. There are so so so many trainers out there who really should not be doing this job!
A number of years ago I was speaking with the NCP (one of the largest employer of parking enforcement officers) and it became know that every single of their lone workers had to receive at least a full week's counter-aggression training, reflecting the hazardous nature of their work.
But their Director of Communications at that time Tim Cowen says the company also used other means to protect its staff. "They also carry radios, and can radio back to supervisors in their depot, so someone can get to them within a couple of minutes," says Cowen. Having a computerised ticketing system also offers staff protection, he adds: "Once they press that button, it is recorded in the system, which helps to reduce pressure on parking attendants to tear up a ticket."
There is no question about it effective lone worker protection training can make a massive difference to the person working alone.
Lone Worker Protection Devices
The arrival of 'mobile technology' has been a massive advance for lone worker protection. But we need to understand thatsimply providing a phone and relying on employees to call if they are in trouble is not always enough, since violent situations do not always offer such opportunities.
However, ensuring your lone workers benefit from the same levels of protection and safety as your office-based employees is critical, and there is a rapidly growing number of suppliers keen to offer devices and services to meet those needs.
The problem now is in choosing what you really need, rather than what you might have been told you need; and it's compounded by the range of products on the market, all of which claim to be 'The Best In The Whole Wide World'.
If you are currently looking for lone worker devices in order to help protect your staff more effectively you really have to do your homework properly. There are clear British Standards a very good lone worker device needs to best tested against and comply with, and there are of course a couple of rather important features that can make a real difference for your lone workers.
If you have all the answers then that's great... if you have not, then please drop me a line and I will do my utmost to redirect you to experts I feel I can trust whole heartedly.
I know (based on many years of operational frontline experience) that a person who is either intoxicated, simply has a serious dislike for the organisation you represent or aggressively disagrees with any decision you are about to make can overreact to anything you say or do.
A lightweight stab resistant vest or body armour will protect you in such case from any impulsive physical assault such person might commit (and possibly deeply regret the following day for the rest of his/her life).
Truly outrageous physical attacks on traffic wardens, licensing enforcement, housing, community safety, anti social behaviour and trading standards teams, have been revealed in data released by local authorities across the UK and many other countries.
To make it very clear, I am of course not saying everyone working for a local council or ambulance service is at risk of getting stabbed or brutally assaulted... of course not. This is of course depending on a number of factors e.g. are you working alone, time of work, location of work, and job responsibilities. However I feel strongly that body armour can help improve lone worker protection effectively.
Dynamic Risk Assessments
A great article about this so very important subject has been written by Nicole Vazquez of Worthwhile Training. I can only suggest you give this article a good read.
Behavioural Based Safety
For me personally one of the most fascinating subjects out there... I personally LOVE this subject!
Behavioural Based Safety is a process that can help improve lone worker protection by reducing unsafe behaviours that can lead to incidents occurring in the workplace. The process works by reinforcing safe behaviour and identifying the causes of unsafe behaviour.
The Three Generic Types of Approach:
A behavioural safety process can be introduced in numerous ways but can be categorised into one of three generic types, these are:
A management driven process that typically has supervisors measuring behaviour and providing one to one feedback and relaying recommendations for improvement to the management team.
An employee driven process which encourages front line participation in safety. This works on the basis of using peer-to-peer observations which are fed back to a workforce run behavioural safety team who then conduct analysis to develop recommendations for managers to implement.
A collective approach is where both managers and front line personnel conduct observations. Analysis is then conducted by a behavioural safety team (represented by both managers and front line personnel) to identify the root causes of unsafe practises. Recommendations are then identified and implemented to improve safety performance.
It should be noted that whilst organisations may initially be considering either a Top Down or Bottom Up approach, all organisations should eventually aim towards adopting a collective approach!
Having worked with Dr Tim Marsh (BSc MSc PhD C.Psychol, FIOSH) of Ryder Marsh Safety at previous LONE WORKER SAFETY Conferences... I can clearly say that 'he is the man' you want to speak with in case you are keen to lean more.
Behavioural Based Safety is a process that reduces unsafe behaviours that can lead to incidents occurring in the workplace. The process works by reinforcing safe behaviour and identifying the causes of unsafe behaviour.