Customisation is king for lone worker safety in the housing sector

Customisation is king for lone worker safety in the housing sector

We’ve been busy at the Health & Safety Event at the NEC Birmingham this week. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase Safe Hub, our proprietary lone worker safety system. And of course it’s always a pleasure to talk with health and safety professionals about the latest developments in our field.

We were really pleased that this year we were able to deliver one of the seminars in the event programme. Our Chief Sales Officer, Rob Gilbert, presented on lone worker safety in the housing sector. It’s one of our key sectors of focus now that we are part of the Procurement for Housing (PfH) Framework. For the benefit of those people who couldn’t attend the event, we thought we’d share some of what he presented.

Lone working in the housing sector: the big picture

In the housing sector, there are many job functions that have always required lone working for at least part of the working week. Most frequently in the sector, lone working roles involve interaction with the public or residents, which brings its own specific set of risks. There are also risks associated with travel between appointments, whether lone workers are using their own car or public transport.

The housing and property sector is relatively safe in terms of accidents at work according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures. However, it’s worth noting that the work-related illness rate is comparable to other sectors. While it’s not apparent the contribution which stress makes to this illness rate, lone workers in the sector may be subject to concerns if they do not feel adequately protected by their employers.

Protecting lone workers is of course a legal requirement for employers, but it’s also a moral responsibility. Social housing in particular has a strong requirement for lone worker safety systems, given the unique nature of their activities, tenants and large property portfolios. Yet it isn’t enough for them to provide a lone worker protection system; they should also ensure that it’s a system that workers understand and can access effectively. And lone workers need training to enable them to take proactive ownership towards their own personal safety.

Lone worker safety systems in the social housing sector

In our view, the biggest challenge for social housing providers is achieving high levels of adoption for a lone worker safety system. Not only can this derive value for money, but it maximises staff welfare. This is an area where there is real opportunity to drive better outcomes through the entire life cycle from procurement, evaluation, deployment and ongoing management.

In our experience it pays to start with the end point clearly in mind. A common mistake we see is too great a focus on technical features, functions or accreditations of any given system during procurement. The focus should rather be on the specific needs of individuals using the system. It also pays to consider the culture and track record of potential providers in delivery of best in class solutions. Instead of poor “fire and forget” sales practices, clients and system providers should be be a shared journey of continual improvement.

Clearly technology is the primary enabler of a lone worker system. However, we believe that at heart lone worker systems are a more sophisticated and responsive extension of personal protection equipment (PPE). For instance, you wouldn’t take a one size fits all approach to buying safety footwear or other garments. You would ensure a range of sizes to ensure each person has immediate access to PPE that is fit for (their individual) purpose.

Aligning the right lone worker safety solution to the role is critical to ensuring positive outcomes. Then it is simply a case of designing health and safety policy that ensures staff are clear on what to do and why to ensure their personal safety when working alone. And of course, it’s vital to deliver training accordingly.

Snapshot of lone worker safety: Red Alert activity

We wanted to give a snapshot of activity from Safe Hub to give an idea of what’s involved in ensuring lone worker safety in the housing sector. Take Red Alerts – our emergency help function, which connects lone workers with our Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) at the push of a button or the tap of a screen. In these cases we answer the call within 10 seconds and summon emergency services immediately, bypassing 999 thanks to our BS8484 accreditation.

It’s perhaps worth noting that we have on average more than one genuine alert per month from some of our larger housing sector clients. Over the course of two years since January 2017, we’ve responded to 68 genuine Red Alert calls from these clients. Scenarios have included physical, verbal or threatening behaviour towards staff by service users, particularly in relation to eviction proceedings. In other cases, we’ve arranged for a response to properties being broken into. And in one instance, a housing worker was able to get an ambulance for a client who had collapsed with kidney stones.

Bespoke lone worker safety systems for each housing sector client

In our presentation, we introduced the audience to Vicky. She’s a fictional but typical neighbourhood housing officer working for a large housing association. Her role is to visit people at home to discuss their tenancy, including issues around rent arrears and antisocial behaviour. Yet while it’s useful to look at Vicky as an example, she’s just one lone worker in the housing sector. The beauty of Safe Hub is that we can respond to the needs of every individual lone worker by activating or deactivating certain safety functions. Here are some case study examples of recent successful customisations we’ve made for individuals at our housing sector clients:

  • Client 1: We applied one-way audio for the highest-risk teams, while enabling two-way audio for all other users. This followed feedback from end-users as part of our iterative account management approach

  • Client 2: We redirected alerts to a client’s internal Security Desk to manage alerts 24/7/365, bypassing our own Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) entirely. We also increased the frequency of GPS reporting from the standard 10-minute frequency, using our unique firmware in the SOS Fob.

  • Client 3: We deactivated the Worker Down feature as standard, and made it available on an opt-in basis for various teams across the organisation.

  • Client 4: We customised Worker Down sensitivity for over 700 devices at the outset of deployment to minimise false alerts and drive staff adoption.

One size of protection really doesn’t fit all lone workers. Truly effective lone worker protection deployments must be customised with devices, apps, features, training and management portals all tailored to meet each organisation’s specific needs. What’s more, the system should be in perpetual state of continual improvement, innovation and iteration. Finding a provider that is willing and able to come on that journey will deliver best practice whilst maximising staff welfare and shareholder value. And that’s what we pride ourselves on here at Lone Worker Solutions.

Contact Lone Worker Solutions and the Safe Hub team today

Post by Rob Gilbert

Rob is Chief Sales Officer at Lone Worker Solutions (LWS). He is responsible for introducing new clients to the benefits of Safe Hub, and ensuring their experience is straightforward, simple and truly effective. His consultative, customer-focused approach means our clients have full access to every possible resource to achieve lasting, best-of-breed solutions and service excellence.