The status of a lone worker is most of the time misunderstood. Despite all, lone workers represent today 10% of employees, some of whom are affected during a short or one-off period in their working lives.
It is essential to be aware of the risks and set up necessary measures to prevent accidents, discomfort, or aggression towards lone workers. The location of the person concerned makes it possible to trigger and organise a quick help.
Lone worker protection: Definition
What is a lone worker? The labour code defines it when he has no possibility of being visible and heard, away from any assistance, in a risk area. Thus a person cut off from all human contact is considered an isolated worker.
The terms Lone Worker Protection and PASS – Personal Alert Safety System (lone worker alarm) are often confused. That is why it is so important to clarify their meaning.
What is the Lone Worker Protection System? It is the set of measures taken to protect an isolated employee. The company has a legal obligation to provide a protective solution adapted to each danger that an employee may encounter when he/she is out of sight and hearing.
The PASS is a warning device! It is an integral part of Lone Worker Protection System.
Functioning of a Personal Alert Safety System
The PASS has two main functions:
- Alert: it emits a ringing signal either manually by the employee or automatically when the PASS detects a fall, removal of the device, an immobilisation, or the presence of toxic gas. A third party responsible receives the signal and sends help in the event of an alert.
- Geolocate: for devices equipped with a location function, send the worker’s position using GPS coordinates or data transmitted by a passing beacon. It can also detect the last location of the employee with entry badges.
The applications concerned by the Lone Worker Protection PASS
Some sectors of activity are more concerned by the use of a lone worker device than others:
- Cleaning companies: cleaning staff in companies often find themselves left to their own devices outside office hours, in the morning or evening.
- Construction: workers, maintenance staff, craftsmen, technicians, and site managers may be alone in a risky environment.
- Hotels: the night watchman, the maintenance worker, the handyman, the gardener, and the cleaning lady are all people who work alone without being seen or heard by anyone in the hotel.
- Delivery-men, sales-men, road transporters, breakdown workers: whether for short or long distances, they are alone with just one means of communication.
- Home care: the presence of the inhabitant is not to be taken into account as he/she may not have the capacity to call for help.
- Farmers, foresters, gardeners: in the wilderness, they are often out of reach of other people.
What are the risks for a lone worker?
Whatever the field of activity, the lone worker is always likely to be confronted with multiple dangers. Therefore it is necessary to identify all the risks before placing a person in hazardous working conditions to select good Personal Protective Equipment.
A thorough medical risk analysis is necessary. Existing medical conditions may effectively prevent the worker from performing tasks under these conditions. In addition, to anticipate future problems, it is essential to consider that stress or any other psychological manifestation linked to isolation can lead to a more or less disabling condition: signs of anxiety or anguish, dizziness, epileptic seizures, or even heart problems.
Physical risk includes both verbal and physical abuse. It is essential to consider all possible situations the employee may be confronted. Without a witness around, an individual will feel freer to act as he/she likes and may engage in practices that could harm the lone worker. Home helpers, delivery workers, home repair workers, and sales representatives are the most affected by this type of risk.
While some people thrive in lone working, others experience anxiety, lack of consideration, abandonment, and frustration. Personal Protective Equipment can help preventing drift, such as drinking alcohol in the workplace. This is why a regular interview with the employee is recommended to determine whether or not there are psychological risks.
Choosing the right Lone Worker Protection PASS
When the alone working situation has been observed, the employer must undertake several actions for workers’ safety. Select thus the most suitable lone worker Personal Alert Safety System.
- Modify the organisation to reduce the amount of time the employee is isolated.
- Study the potential risks that an isolated worker may face: physical, psychological, and medical (see the previous paragraph).
- Adapt the equipment and workstation.
- Find out about all the features that a PASS can include.
- The “dead man’s” device can detect an abnormal position of the employee, an absence of movement or a loss of verticality, or both (“smart” detection).
- The SOS button is discreet and allows the employee to issue an alarm quickly. Jewellery shops, banks, and small shops are often equipped with them.
- The fall detector is triggered as soon as the employee falls. If it is a false move or the employee can return to work, it quickly switches off the alarm pre-alert.
- Involve employees in the choice of the Lone Worker Device. Such as key actors in wearing this protective device, they can identify the risks according to the work area. In addition, this gives them a significant recognition.
- Train the staff concerned in risk prevention, the lone workers in the proper use of the PASS, the members of the CSE (Social and Economic Committee), and the people responsible for calling for help.
In addition to the functionalities mentioned above, choosing a good PASS for safe lone working depends on the environment and its characteristics.
The different mobile devices carried by the lone worker :
- Smartphone: the most frequently used PASS. A simple Bluetooth connection provides an immediate detection of the isolated person’s location. The detection of the position of a device or phone can also warn of an employee’s distress.
- GSM phone: it takes the form of a mobile phone or smartphone. It offers different emergency alerts detecting danger or an absence of movement (dead man’s device for isolated workers). The GSM network allows signals to be sent from the SIM card to a relay antenna. As the response is too approximate, an external GPS must be added to this geolocation system.
- Connected watch: sends an alarm in case of aggression in the workplace
- Walkie-talkie: radio solution to communicate and explain the situation
- Lone Worker Protection application: complements the GSM phone or the connected watch to ensure safety by signalling an immobilisation and the location of the victim.
- DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) phone: same principle as a wireless phone. With specific functionalities for the protection of a lone worker, it transmits an alarm and sets the position of the employee.
- ATEX Lone Worker Protection system: warning device created especially for ATEX explosive zones.
Organising the implementation of a Personal Alert Safety System
It is essential to define certain elements to deploy help quickly and efficiently: the target, the doubt removal, the geolocation, the risks, the means of access, the intervening persons, the rescue.
Throughout the year, the employer must check the correct use of the protection device and ensure that it is always in working order.
Lone Worker Protection PASS setup is an obligation as soon as the situation of an isolated worker is defined. This system entails strict regulations for lone worker protection that the employer must follow. He is obliged to protect his employees and should take the necessary measures as soon as he detects hazardous assignments within the company. Although tracking the location of lone workers in real-time may seem restrictive and misinterpreted, it allows rapid deployment of help when an accident, assault, or illness occurs.