Keeping the lights on, the water running and the workers safe
From gas, electricity and water suppliers to integrated providers, the utilities sector covers a range of different businesses. Just as important as tight government regulation to ensure reliable supply, health and safety legislation ensures that utilities companies protect their lone workers.
Typically, many of the risks for lone workers in the sector centre on ‘Worker Down’ scenarios, such as for engineers in plants or working in the field. But lone working roles in the sector also include people working directly with the public, and those who work alone from or within a central office, especially outside normal working hours. And travel between sites can pose significant risks, especially in instances such as extreme weather necessitating emergency repairs. Safe Hub is ideally placed to offer all these workers the protection they need.
Slips, trips and falls
In the utilities sector, lone working teams often work alone for extended periods of time at wastewater treatment plants or up high on power lines. They primarily face the risk of incapacitation or injury, due to slips, trips or falls.
Safe Hub has support features which can be delivered using a range of devices. Critically for this type of lone worker, our Worker Down feature uses in-built motion sensor technology to detect sudden impacts or changes in the handset’s orientation.
Facing the public
Of course, there are a range of risks associated with travelling to different locations and entering people’s properties. Dependent on the role, there may also be a factor of task-related risk, such as working from height or in a potentially hazardous environment. For workers enacting termination-of-service-notices, there are also risks of potential aggression or violence from non-compliant customers at these properties.
Office or remote
While this category of lone workers is generally the lowest-risk, there are still risks associated with these roles.
Safe Check is a periodic welfare ‘check-in’ system directly managed by the lone worker. They simply confirm their welfare by replying to automated prompts at set time intervals. Safe Check can be easily enabled on our app, and many of our dedicated devices.
For utility engineers working near combustable materials, use an intrinsically safe device
These devices are ideal for lone workers operating in hazardous areas or extreme conditions. Intrinsically safe devices limit the use of electrical and thermal energy to a level below that required to ignite a specific hazardous atmospheric mixture. At the same time, they’re top-of-the-range mobile phones, deploying GPS/GSM technology, and they provide excellent reception and coverage. Twig Protector Ex and Protector Ex Pro, and Ecom Smart-Ex® 01 support the full range of Safe Hub features.
Safe Hub scenario: field engineers
Remote locations, extreme weather and hazardous equipment
Such workers often don’t have immediate access to standard emergency services, for instance if they are operating in an area where mobile phone coverage is patchy. Clearly, many lone workers in this category will also require personal protective equipment, so it’s vital to ensure that any lone worker safety device is compatible with such equipment.
Workers in this scenario would benefit from accessing Safe Hub using a satellite device such as SPOT Gen3 or the brand new SPOT X with 2-way audio. These both provide emergency Red Alert protection wherever the worker may be – and robust buttons work even when used with safety gloves. Meanwhile, to access Worker Down, Safe Hub’s reactive support feature, a device such as ProtectMe is ideal.
Safe Hub deployed across 47 states.
Safe Hub App for both Android and Apple smartphones.
American Water is the largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company in the US, serving 15 million.
American Water employs 6,800 people in a wide range of roles, many of whom work alone, or out of their colleagues’ sight.
Case Study: American Water
Safe Hub deployed across 47 states in the USA
In 2016, we were selected to provide lone worker protection services for American Water. We deployed our proprietary platform, Safe Hub, via apps for both Android and Apple smartphones. American Water is the largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company in the US, serving 15 million people across 47 states.
American Water employs 6,800 people in a wide range of roles, many of whom work alone, or out of their colleagues’ sight or hearing. In these scenarios and many others, the app enhances existing measures to improve safety.
Safe Hub was considered a frontrunner in the utility company’s selection process. American Water wanted a supplier who would work closely with them to deliver a system that would meet their workers’ specific needs and improve safety. One key factor was that we were able to install Alert Manager, our proprietary monitoring software, on their network. This allows American Water’s Security Team to monitor workers’ safety themselves.
Working in the utilities sector can be hazardous – and accidents do happen. In the US, for instance, the biggest number of fatalities in the sector is electrical-related, amounting to hundreds of deaths each year. Working with transmission lines, and slips, trips and falls also account for significant numbers of deaths.
Corporate manslaughter laws put managers and shareholders at the centre of investigations into such accidents. By adopting Safe Hub, companies can demonstrate they are taking a responsible approach to health and safety. And by ensuring Safe Hub is properly used, they can mitigate the effects of accidents on workers through fast-track emergency help.
Avoiding life-changing accidents
As well as fatal accidents, non-fatal injuries can be devastating for those involved. There are a range of specific safety concerns which may cause injury in the utilities and engineering sector.
These include stress through extreme temperatures, both cold and heat. Chemical and biological hazards are particular concerns in water and sewerage utilities. Physical strain and overexertion can strike utilities workers on long and sometimes demanding shifts. And of course, driving long distances or in adverse conditions can be challenging. Safe Hub can mitigate the effects of all these causes of accidents, by targeting workers with emergency, reactive and proactive support as needed.
Useful guidelines and resources
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has some useful resources on working in the sector. These range from a guide for employers on working with sewage through to guidance on preventing falls from height.
In the USA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) similarly provides extensive guidance for employers and employees in the sector. Other more specific bodies such as the Electrical Safety Foundation International also provide best practice guidance and self-assessment tools.
Lone working in the utilities and engineering sectors
Latest news about lone working in the utilities and engineering sectors, including electricity and gas production and distribution, steam and air conditioning, water supply and sewerage, waste and remediation activities, and engineering.