Setting the standard for protecting lone workers
More than six million people in the UK work either in isolation or without direct supervision, often in places or circumstances that put them at potential risk.
However, given the wide range of solutions currently available to protect lone workers, choosing a supplier can be difficult. Patrick Dealtry, Chairman of the Lone Worker Steering Group of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), explains what to look for in a quality supplier.
A wide variety of organisations in a range of sectors employ people whose jobs require them to work or operate alone, either regularly or occasionally. Almost by definition, lone working can be both intimidating and at times dangerous, so the protection of lone workers involves a twofold approach; not only to provide safeguards but also to offer reassurance to the people involved.
The nature of this work means that many are required to travel alone, often in busy city-centre locations, and often after dark, leaving them particularly at risk. To address these important issues, the security industry has worked with the police and end-users to develop a combination of practice, technology and standards capable of providing an effective, and cost-effective, solution to the risks.
The development of technology and practice in the field has focused on encouraging and enabling lone workers to assess the risks they might be facing and provide them with the means both to summon aid in an emergency and collect information that can be used in evidence, if necessary.
This has led to the creation of a myriad of lone worker devices equipped with mobile phone technology that connect employees quickly and discreetly with an emergency response system that has direct links to the Police. A number of products are commercially available, including miniature devices that resemble ID holders. However, the range of choice currently on offer means that many employers are unsure where to start when sourcing quality lone worker solutions.
A security standard (BS8484)
Enter British Standard 8484 (BS8484), the Code of Practice for the provision of Lone Worker Services, which has been a key element of the security industry’s work to create such solutions. BS8484 is employed by all BSIA members in the field and forms the basis for police response to lone worker systems.
James Kelly, Chief Executive of the BSIA, comments, “The BSIA’s Lone Worker Steering Group recommends that companies choose lone worker systems that are compliant to British Standard 8484, which is the Code of Practice for the provision of Lone Worker Services. BS8484 is the basis on which Police respond to lone worker systems, so it’s important for employers to choose a supplier who works to these standards.”
Choosing a solution that is compliant to BS8484 through audit ensures that at-risk employees are provided with the best and most cost-effective level of protection if they get into trouble, and also gives organisations the best level of protection against litigation and legislation.
The standard has 3 main parts:
Part 4 – the company providing the service must be stable, properly financed, insured, have effective information security and competent to provide such services.
Part 5 – all devices used as personal safety alarms must meet the functional requirements of the standard. This enables an operator to verify the alarm as genuine, establish the situation and the location before passing the relevant information to the appropriate response service in a timely manner.
Part 6 – refers to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) which is where the alarm is received, verified and a response request sent to the appropriate service – usually the Emergency Services. ARCS must meet BS5979 Category 2 for Alarm Receiving Centres as well as BS8484 Part 6.
Ensuring police response
Implementation has ensured that requests for police response are properly verified, originate with approved ARCs and contain the right information. The result is a minimum of false alarms which justifies the commitment by the Police to provide an ‘immediate’ response where possible.
The Police manage alarms and approval for the ‘immediate’ level of response through their Security Systems Policy by the issue of a URN (Unique Reference Number). For Lone Worker alarms, the policy demands that all links in the chain are complete before a URN is issued to an ARC, i.e. the provider, the device and the ARC are all accredited to the appropriate part of the standard. This is partly in force now but will be fully in force by the end of July 2012.
Implementation of the standard of course benefits the Police. But more importantly it also provides less tangible benefits for vulnerable employees and their employers, concerning staff attitudes to their employer. It has been shown that employers who show proper concern for their at-risk staff can reduce staff absence through sickness and stress and improve staff retention. Because they feel safer with adequate precautions and training, staff are more effective in implementing company policy in difficult situations. In addition such services have been shown to allow staff to work alone where in the past double manning has been required.
Additional services provided by some service providers, based on Lone Worker devices, provide real benefit to the issue of staff management.
The BSIA has also published two associated guides, which provide both employers and lone workers themselves with easy-to-follow advice.
‘Lone Workers – An Employer’s Guide’ informs employers about what to look for when sourcing a supplier. The guide covers the employers’ responsibilities to its lone workers, as well as specific criteria for selecting technology, monitoring services and providers, including the possession of quality management systems such as ISO 9001 and the delivery of appropriate training.
‘Lone Workers – An Employers Guide’ can be downloaded free by visiting www.bsia.co.uk/publications, and searching for form number 288.
For employees whose role requires them to work alone, the BSIA has produced a separate guide, ‘Lone Workers – An Employee’s Guide’, which can be downloaded free by visiting the BSIA’s website and searching for form number 284.
British Security Industry Association (BSIA)
To find out more about the BSIA and the work of its members, or to find a reputable supplier of lone worker devices near you, visit the Association’s website at www.bsia.co.uk