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What is a lone worker? What are the dangers they may face? 

The HSE, (Health and Safety Executive) classifies a lone worker as ‘someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision‘, and this incorporates a wide range of job roles. Source.

“Working by yourself in a remote location presents a set of challenges both for employers and the lone workers.” Source.

The safety status and protection of the lone worker is now more important than ever. Due to the Covid19 pandemic and the phenomenal impact this has had on the working world, hybrid working, both at home abroad, mobile workforces and remote working dictate a new, flexible working environment, which means workers may be more ‘alone’ than ever before. 

With the proliferation of delivery service companies such as Deliveroo and Amazon operating in cities across the world, amplified by the pandemic, the requirement for duty of care in this new working environment is vital. Consider the risk of violence recently faced by Deliveroo drivers in Dublin: “There have been several violent incidents in the northeast inner city over the last 12 months, some of which began as robberies of Deliveroo staff.” Source.

Furthermore, as a result of an increase in terror incidents at home and abroad and the tragic, shocking case of Sarah Everard in the UK, as heavily reported in the media and on social networking sites, an organisation’s need to protect their lone workers and female workers who work and travel alone, inside and outside of working hours has become more important than ever before.

A risky business: Threats to lone worker safety

In the UK

First things first… let’s take a look at the current risk environment surrounding lone workers in the UK.

After the height of the pandemic and the gradual return to work which has ensued, employees are becoming used to hybrid working – meaning a mix of home and office work, as well as staggered shift patterns, reduced capacities and social distancing measures. Employees are now often encountering working situations where they work either alone or without direct supervision for extended periods of time.

“The HSE states that, as an employer, it is your duty to manage any health and safety risks before you allow people to work alone. This applies to anyone contracted to work for you, including self-employed people.” Source

Particular risks which affect lone workers in the UK might include: 

  • Stress and mental health or wellbeing issues 
  • Medical suitability to work alone 
  • The workplace itself – either a rural or isolated area 
  • Workplace violence 
  • Covid19
  • Personal safety concerns out of hours, for example, walking home late at night

Employers have a legal duty of care to support their lone workers. This applies to both their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Employers can protect their lone workers by carrying out risk assessments, modifying environments, particularly in light of Covid19 and social distancing measures and by providing support to keep isolation, stress and anxiety at bay in our newly remote and hybrid working landscape. Procedures enabling direct contact between lone workers and their line managers are essential. 

“If an employee cannot be seen or heard by a colleague, they are a lone worker – whether that be for all or part of their working day. This also includes staff who work from home. It is estimated that up to 8 million people in the United Kingdom are lone workers. That’s 22% of the 31.2m UK working population.” Source.

It is vital that employers take precautions to protect their lone workers in the UK, as this practice can be dangerous. An alarming “66% of isolated workers reported that they had experienced violence and aggression from the public.” Source.

At UNISON’s biennial health and safety seminar in 2019, Saskia Garnier from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust delivered a keynote speech, highlighting this astonishing statistic. Mrs Garnier went on to explain how over 30 years after the disappearance (and presumed murder) of estate agent, Ms Lamplugh, who was last known to have shown a potential client a property, the circumstances which led to her disappearance are still extremely relevant today. You can read Ms Lamplugh’s devastating story on the Suzy Lamplugh Trust’s website, here: Source.

Abroad

Arguably, when it comes to keeping lone workers safe abroad, the list of threats they may face is heightened, meaning more organisational input is required. “Whatever the job role in whatever industry, lone working presents its own particular risks. But when overseas travel or trips to unfamiliar locations are thrown into the mix, the list of potential hazards skyrockets.” Source.

“Political instability, terrorism and kidnap threats, language barriers, jet lag and the increased potential of being targeted by criminals attracted to expensive devices, valuables and cash undoubtedly being carried are just some of the additional hazards that need to be considered.” Source.

Chris Phillips, founder of world-recognised company, the International Protect and Prepare Security Office (IPPSO), who served as a police officer for over 30 years, gives his insight on the risk to lone workers abroad, to Lone Worker Safety Live: 

“These days, pretty much everybody is a lone worker, with lone workers coming from all industries. If companies are sending their workers travelling, whether it be in the UK or overseas, then it is their responsibility to keep them safe.” Source.

Chris continues to reveal shocking statistics: “The fact is that there are 300-400 British citizens taken hostage or kidnapped around the world every year. Companies need to be aware of the security risks of anywhere and everywhere they are sending their staff.” Source.

“So, whether your staff are travelling to far flung places or to cities and towns within the UK, it certainly makes sense to do all you can to reduce the risks and protect both them and your business.” Source.

Let’s hone in on the location specifics of the kidnapping risks lone workers face abroad. 

Globally, approximately 40,000 kidnappings occur each year. Alarmingly, over 40% of these kidnappings are of business personnel or their dependants. Regions with the highest-risk include Mexico, Libya and Bangladesh.

Bearing in mind, risk to lone workers can occur in any region in the world and of course, this doesn’t just apply to kidnapping in the turbulent world we live in. This is why it’s important employers consider risks wherever they send staff. 

Companies should have crisis management systems in place, so they are able to expect the unexpected and are prepared to protect their staff should the worst happen. Risk applies to any staff who travel for work, away and at home.

For a useful guide from the BBC on lone worker protection, click here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/safety/resources/aztopics/lone-working 

The Sarah Everard movement and privacy-first technology for the protection of women alone

Recent, harrowing events in the UK media have highlighted the need for organisations to continue to ensure their duty of care obligations to female employees travelling alone, not only inside of working hours, but also after hours and all over the globe, including on home soil. Sarah Everard’s story has sparked a movement based around female security. “Activists who have previously channeled energy into almost every other social and political cause are, finally, turning to the matter of women’s lives. Here in the UK, a spontaneous political movement has erupted with women at its centre.” Source.

Any emerging protective intelligence technologies or software used by organisations to monitor the safety status of their female workers, when travelling alone should be deployed carefully, with the promise that they are privacy-first and user consent driven.The end user should be able to determine when they are being tracked and be able to switch to private mode or disable active tracking when they have reached their destination safely, or no longer feel at risk.

In recent years, the importance of an employer’s duty of care over their female employees in high-risk scenarios outside of the workplace has come under the spotlight.

“Thousands of women have been sharing their experiences of feeling unsafe or being sexually harassed while alone in public following the disappearance of Sarah Everard.” Source.

“Alarming findings released on Monday found that 97 per cent of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harrased in their liftetime, with 80 per cent those aged over 25 also having experienced sexual harassment.” Source.

In the aftermath of the Covid19 pandemic and the increased terror threat level in the UK, we’ve seen organisations focus on both protecting mental health in the workplace and adopting a more hybrid way of working. Companies are much more proactive when it comes to protecting the well-being of their people.

Trust culture and the importance of a privacy-first outlook when ensuring lone worker safety

Solutions organisations, businesses or enterprises use to protect the safety of lone workers, at home and abroad, must be privacy-first initiatives. Notably, half of the CEOs asked in a recent study undertaken by the World Economic Forum cited regulation as a priority for 2021, post-Covid. “This unquestionably reflects a rising assertiveness by governments around privacy, data, trade and – amplified by COVID-19 – health,” IBM says. Source.

“Trust is based on three key components: what you say, what you do, and how you perform.” Source

Trust culture depends on lone workers having complete confidence in their employers. Organisations must be reliable, dependable, accountable and transparent both internally and externally, not only in their duty of care policies but also in the way they handle data privacy and confidential information when protecting their employees’ safety,  particularly in light of recent legislation changes, prompted by the EU GDPR Act and the CCPA.

The modern world we live in, in the shadow of the impact of the Covid19 pandemic, a boom of online activity, terror threats and hybrid, remote working, has married the obligations for organisations to ensure that sufficient duty of care and privacy protection is readily available to their employees, particularly lone workers. As previously inferred, perhaps technology provides a solution for the provision of both necessities. 

The AtlasNXT platform

AtlasNXT is the next-generation location intelligence to keep your employees safe, enabled and engaged. AtlasNXT uniquely applies location intelligence to solve enterprise security, duty of care and communication challenges. It is designed to optimise user adoption by offering a unified, intuitive experience built on privacy-first principles.

The AtlasNXT platform and app enhances the connection between employees and security teams, putting trusted, relevant information and support into the hands of when they need it.

With its curated data feeds it allows organisations to anticipate and manage risk to your people and operations with curated real-time data feeds, tailored to your organisations risk profile. AtlasNXT location-based communication allows you to deliver and promote impactful communications by providing relevant information to the right person in the right place at the right time.

Overwatch

Overwatch, a key feature of our new platform, AtlasNXT, is designed to provide peace of mind for both lone workers and females working or travelling alone, inside or outside of working hours.

Overwatch is AtlasNXT’s smartphone-initiated safety feature, that allows app users who find themselves in an unsettling or vulnerable situation to initiate an active-tracking session. During the session, users temporarily share their live location with a web platform operator who can monitor their progress on AtlasNXT’s map view and provide ongoing live assistance until they safely reach their destination.

To find more about Overwatch, visit: www.atlasnxt.com 

Takeaways

As we’ve evaluated, ensuring the safety of the lone worker, as well as female employees working and travelling alone is now more important than ever. Organisations must have adequate systems in place to ensure they are protecting their people and providing a duty of care, whilst also respecting the privacy of individuals at all times.

This necessity for protection is due to the increase in hybrid and remote working, accelerated by Covid19, as a result of terror incidents at home and away, tragic events concerning female security and finally, a realisation of the constant threat of violence posed to lone workers.

Our blog has offered up a variety of suggestions and considerations to ensure your organisation is protecting lone workers and female workers when alone or travelling.