Applications | Lone Worker Solutions

Lone workers are becoming increasingly common with the development of technology within the workplace and the increase in flexible working options. Much of this increase has come about due to the ever increasing cost of employing people, yet the responsibility on employers in ensuring a duty of care to these employees has not diminished.

Lone Worker Solutions

Companies are looking at low cost and effective solutions to meet this growing demand. There are a number of solutions which can be employed to meet this requirement and this document outlines these differing solutions and suggests where each can be best employed.

On Site Lone Worker Solutions

The traditional method for a lone worker solution in a factory of office location is to make an arrangement with employees to contact one another at regular intervals by telephone. This may include involvement of on site security staff to periodically check on lone workers and to take action when an expected call has not been received.

Whilst this solution is undoubtedly cheap it does bring with it some major drawbacks and may not provide either the employer or employee with sufficient safeguards in the event of a problem. The system relies upon staff proactively making contact with security staff or a colleague and this is its major weakness. In addition it is a cumbersome and inefficient method to ensure lone worker safety.

Paging Systems

Paging systems have been adapted to automate lone worker solutions. These systems employ base station receivers which are located at suitable points around a site [to ensure site wide coverage]. A paging encoder/decoder is suitably located and will receive alerts sent by individual paging units. Staff are issued with a pager which would normally be collected upon arrival to the site. Typically this would be the site security office where the main charging unit would be located.

The system works in a number of ways. If the employee does not make contact at prearranged times the pager will send an alert to the paging encoder/decoder identifying the individual pager that has sent the alert. Appropriate action can then be taken.

The advantage of a pager based lone worker solution is that much of the human element [and therefore the weakest point] is removed as this is done automatically.

There are however some disadvantages with this type of system since the infrastructure costs can be very high. This is due to the fact that pager units have very low transmit power so a number of base station receivers may be required to adequately cover a site. In addition, once multiple base station receivers are required then these have to be interconnected by cable. This can lead to a prohibitively expensive installation cost. The hardware costs are also high with pager units costing as much as £350.00 each.

The system can include man down facilities, manually initiated emergency calls and limited talkback facilities [where a two way conversation takes place between the caller and the called party].

These systems require licencing, and whilst obtaining a licence is not generally a problem; each site must have its own individual licence. The running costs are therefore a multiple of the number of sites x the licence cost, currently £75.00 per 3 years.

It is also possible to locate beacons around a site so that when a lone worker or man down alarm is initiated the called party will have a good idea as to the location of the alerting pager. Again however the capital costs can be very high.

Radio Systems

Modern two way radios now incorporate a host of features which provide all of the functionality of paging systems with the added benefit of lower infrastructure costs and lower licencing charges.

A radio based lone worker system may not require a base station or repeater to provide site wide coverage as radios are much more powerful than paging units. Using well established selcall facilities in conjunction with lone working the radios can be configured to send an alert to one or more locations. The identity of the calling party can also be displayed at one, some, or all the called party locations. Where a repeater is employed then the same system could be used to cover more than one site even if some miles apart.

Lone worker, Man down and manual emergency features are all supported and of course a radio provides a useful method for mobile two way voice communications, in addition to the lone worker function.

Some radios even include a special facility whereby if the man down alarm is initiated the radio microphone stays open to allow the called party to hear any noises or audio which may be taking place [assuming the calling party has become separated from his radio].

If it is important to know the location of the caller when an alarm is generated then this can be achieved quite cheaply by installing suitable radio beacons at varying point around the site.

Even if base stations or repeaters are employed these need not require cabling together so installation costs are kept to a minimum.

Licencing costs can be very low. If a base station or repeater is not required then a suitable radio licence would cost as little as £60.00 per 3 years. This would also allow the radio equipment to be moved from site to site without infringing the licence conditions.

Wide Area

There are a number of solutions which employ handheld units operating on one or more of the mobile telephone networks. Integrating these with GPS based packages and the internet means that an effective solution for safeguarding and locating widely dispersed employees is possible.

Handheld unit costs are higher than radios but lower than paging units although running costs can be excessive. In addition these wide area solutions rely entirely on third party networks to be effective [see Emergency Strategy Document].

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