Letter to the Editor: FFI and lone worker safety

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The Health & Safety Executive's introduction of a Fee for Intervention this month is a clear statement of intent, in a country where, in reality, most organisations, especially those who have not experienced an accident or major breach, are likely to be failing to meet either regulation or health and safety best practice. With new H&S demands constantly evolving – such as ensuring the health and safety of lone workers – organisations now face significant costs (estimated at £100 per hour, up to £8,000 for a major breach) should an HSE investigation occur. But safeguarding lone workers is not only relatively simple – it can transform business productivity and effectiveness.

The first requirement is to consider the dangers facing a lone worker and the potential communication limitations based on location and the risks associated with a job or activity. How can an engineer react if there is a problem or accident? What happens if a security guard is hit over the head and cannot call for help?  And what happens after the alarm is raised? How is that information shared? How is the rescue coordinated? Organisations cannot simply provide a mobile phone and consider the lone worker health & safety obligations are covered.

However, in considering these issues organisations should also assess the day to day activities of such lone workers and whether improving communications could deliver productivity improvements. For example, providing a robust communications framework can also enable the organisation to deliver a real time alert to an engineer if a machine has failed and needs repair. By integrating these two solutions onto a single communications platform – that exploits radio, GSM, DECT or Wi-Fi – a company not only meets its health and safety obligations but also improves the timeliness of repair, minimises the administrative process typically involved in locating and allocating an engineering resource, and increases machine uptime. Similarly, if technical support is required to work on a specific machine, an engineer can use the communication device to call the technical hotline and discuss the issue, improving response and minimising downtime.

It may be tempting to opt for the most basic lone worker solution – a simple, press button alarm device. However, not only may this fail to meet the complex and evolving health and safety requirements but, by considering the opportunities for combining employee protection with business efficiency, an organisation can drive significant benefit by improving productivity, gaining significant return from a necessary investment.

Chris Potts, Sales and Marketing Manager, ANT Telecom.

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