It’s Expensive to be a Lone Worker
Is your Lone Worker Solution being used?
Is a lone worker solution a cost to an organisation, or an investment in staff safety? Most will perhaps see it as a bit of both, largely depending on the activities and responsibilities associated with their job role.
Like anything that requires financial investment, benefits must be assessed in line with wider budget demands – but corporate attitudes to safety are often deeply ingrained into an organisation’s culture. Some immediately buy into the culture of better staff safety – whether it’s PPE, smarter and safer systems, or a lone worker solution. Specifying a lone worker solution that is fit for purpose, involves staff at all levels. Ensuring proper implementation and high adoption is a significant undertaking. And what are the main deciding factors – is it usability or price? Some cheap solutions may well comply with everything a client needs on paper, but what if it doesn’t ever get used? Who’s responsible? In purely financial terms, a specifier may get a great price, but if usage is low, any ‘saving’ is actually a false economy.
Usage is Key
Usage is the key metric in evaluating successful solution adoption. Is it sticky enough for staff to see the benefits and integrate into their routine and apparel?
How does the organisation implement the solution? Whether mandatory usage, or down to individual choice. Including lone worker safety technology in policy, and employment contracts does support better usage – but however it’s implemented, it needs to reflect the culture of an organisation.
Which prompts a couple of questions:
- What’s the current usage level for your lone worker solution?
- In the aftermath of a serious incident – how is culpability affected if a solution is knowingly under-utilised, and an organisation’s policy hasn’t factored in trying to change that?
In the last couple of years, the landscape for fines associated with Health and Safety legislation breaches has changed considerably. Tougher Sentencing Guidelines, with much bigger financial penalties ushered in which is food for thought, for many a Company Director.
The guidelines now clearly specify, “a fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact, which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply”. In short, if culpability and harm are both high, any imposed fine is going to significantly hurt the organisation. This is reflected in the financial penalties being handed down to offending organisations. Thomson Reuters Legal Business reported an 18% increase in the value of corporate fines for health and safety breaches in 2017 – £57.3 million, up from £48.5 million the year before. Fair enough, you might say? However, mentioned in the latest guidelines (in effect from Feb 2016), is a number of ‘factors increasing seriousness’ that are considered in the event of a successful prosecution. These include “cost-cutting at the expense of safety”. Whilst this is not specifically linked to lone working, it is fair to assume that any HSE prosecution linked to an incident involving a lone worker will look at the risks faced as part of their job, and the means they had to reduce risk. It is reasonable to assume that in a chain of events where lone worker technology could have assisted a situation – and to be clear, that is not every situation – that the merits of the solution’s deployment, inclusion in policy, usage by staff, management reporting delivered etc will potentially be considered as part of the process. The obvious moral arguments around safety aside, the financial risks to organisations are now very clear. In November 2017, when the HSE published summary statistics for the year, they achieved a conviction rate of 93%.
Away from the specifics of health and safety legislation, last month saw the announcement of new Sentencing Guidelines for Manslaughter cases – coming into force in England and Wales later in 2018. Whilst introduced to help determine a range of manslaughter offences, it’s believed by several observers that the new guidelines will help to better inform decisions regarding complex or large-scale cases of gross negligence manslaughter, with penalties also expected to increase.
Right to Reply?
In our experience, involving a workforce in the selection of a solution is critical for lone term success. This may require extensive trialling of a number of solutions, or even implementing a mix of dedicated devices or apps across the business, if different risk profiles and lone worker needs become apparent.
Working in partnership with staff, reviewing feedback, and comparing against solution usage data will assist the process. And if this works, keep repeating – this is a cyclical process and will continue to benefit organisations’ in the long term.