When considering individuals working alone in local government, many people might think of local councillors. They deal directly with members of the public and often in difficult circumstances. But of course, it’s not just elected officials who are potentially working out of sight or hearing of colleagues. The total number of jobs in local government in the UK in March 2018 was 2.06 million. These figures include some 1.5 million workers in local-authority supported schools, so employees working directly for local councils amounted to around half a million.
Across these workers, the diversity of lone working roles and job functions in the public sector is striking. Roles with a particularly high-risk profile include those where staff work directly with residents and businesses. These include trading standards officers, social workers, park wardens and even librarians in smaller facilities. Many are often in isolated locations, using potentially hazardous machinery or facing aggressive and violent behaviour from the public. What makes Safe Hub so special is the fact that we can offer different levels of protection to different groups of local council workers. If necessary they can access our safety system using different devices – but all in one deployment and using one web-based management portal.
Example job role #1: staying safe on the road
Take for instance trading standards officer. Many of the risks are around travel, as each working day this employee will visit different sites to carry out inspections or serve notices. Whether using their own car or public transport, this carries its own risks. Meanwhile, when they deal with clients who are in breach of regulations, they may face non-compliance – or worse. Safe Hub's emergency Red Alert feature is a vital tool to protect workers in this situation, together with Yellow Alert, which lets users leave a recording with information about site visits. And with Safe Check, our periodic welfare feature, they will also get proactive support. We might suggest that the trading standards officer can access support using the Safe Hub Smartphone App, given this will fit in seamlessly with other aspects of their job.
Example job role #2: dealing discreetly with public
For the librarian, the main risks are focused on dealing with the public. The Local Government Association points to the fact that the library of the 21st century is home to a diverse range of services in our communities. It can support health and wellbeing, prevent social isolation and loneliness, provide support to people living with dementia. This means that many library users have a range of needs which library workers must be aware of and accommodate. What’s more, there might be cash kept on the premises (for instance, if there’s a photocopy machine or money from fines). For this group of workers, therefore, we might suggest deploying a discreet device such as our SOS Button or SOS Badge ID. Either of these provide easy access to our Red Alert emergency feature – as well as offering a rapid Worker Down response to library workers who have slipped, tripped or fallen.
Example job role #3: when Worker Down is most important
Lone workers at waste and recycling centres face another set of challenges. Potentially operating heavy equipment, they will more likely face more acute risks around slips, trips and falls. Safe Hub deploys motion and shock sensors embedded in dedicated devices or smartphones to offer reactive support with our Worker Down feature. We’d suggest a device such as SOS Fob, unless the worker is regularly in more hazardous environments when our intrinsically safe devices come into their own.
Case study: Essex County Council
Our most extensive deployment in the sector to date is Essex County Council (ECC). ECC is one of the UK's biggest councils employing approximately 9,000 staff. Council services include education, social care, waste and recycling, transport and highways, libraries, and leisure and tourism. Many staff members who deliver these services work by themselves or out-of-sight of colleagues and can be in challenging customer-facing roles.
ECC established a working group as a sub-division of the Health & Safety Board, to review existing procedures and consider future options. The council identified all the staff roles that included a lone-working component, conducted a risk assessment, and established a health and safety profile for each one. The group conducted an audit of the legacy protection system that was in place; the findings demonstrated a very low take-up among staff members.
Ensuring lone workers access the support they need
Here at Lone Worker Solutions, addressing such low take-up rates is our best way of ensuring value for money for clients. Our first step is always to select the most suitable devices and apps for lone workers. In ECC’s case, we selected the SOS Fob as the best fit for high-risk ECC lone workers who wanted a discreet device. For staff in lower-risk roles, or who work alone occasionally, they share devices. An advanced feature of Safe Hub is that each team member has a bespoke profile which can be ‘ported' across to any device in a matter of minutes. Alongside SOS Fob, we provided access to Safe Hub on our advanced smartphone app, so employees who don't want to carry an extra device are still fully protected.
On deployment, we work hard to make using Safe Hub part and parcel of lone workers’ everyday safety practice. From extensive initial and top-up training, through to calls to individuals and step-by-step guides, we put lone working end-users first. That way, lone workers feel confident that they can access the support they need whenever they need it. You can read our full case study here >
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Post by George Stavrinidis
George is Chief Executive Officer of Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He believes passionately that everyone should be protected and supported at work. George supports LWS clients to make sure they enjoy the most effective relationship with the team and maximise the effectiveness of their deployment of Safe Hub.