Whilst employers have a duty of care to protect employees where possible, lone workers like estate agents, district nurses, carers and enforcement officers can still be vulnerable. New high-tech global tracking apps could hold the answer.
The safety of lone workers has been in the spotlight since the disappearance of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh in 1986, when she was due to meet a client, ‘Mr. Kipper’ at an empty property and did not return from that appointment.
Suzy was officially declared dead, presumed murdered, in 1993. Despite police searches, her body has never been found and the man believed to be guilty of her murder remains silent about her whereabouts.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust
Four months after Suzy’s disappearance, her parents founded The Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
At the time very little research had been done into personal safety for remote workers and the term was rarely used. Paul and Diana Lamplugh became the foremost experts on personal safety and Diana travelled throughout the UK raising awareness of the subject. The trust also runs a national stalking helpline that campaigns to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through campaigning, education and support.
The trust actively promote safe working practices for lone workers, with useful tips for both employers and employees.
People tracing technology
With the growth in remote working, safety and security of remote workers remains an important consideration.
Thankfully, people working alone are now at less risk, thanks in part to technology that has come on in leaps and bounds since the early 1990s, through the advent of the internet as we know it today, mobile phones and satellite tracking hardware and software.
Many employers are now using people-tracking apps on smartphones and satellite phones, which are playing an essential role both in making lone workers more safe – and helping them feel safer. One such app comes from British company Vismo, and gives employers access to their own web-based monitoring system, allowing them to track and respond to staff at any time in the 24/7 cycle.
The company have recently added a new feature which is specifically designed to improve the safety of remote workers. Vismo has recently enhanced its offering with a Timed Check-In function, which enables users to submit their immediate location information back to the web-based platform, and allows users to also set a timer which will automatically trigger an alert if is not explicitly cancelled.
Vismo director Colin Dale, explains:
“Many lone workers visit new or unfamiliar premises, enforcement officers in particular can be faced with potentially distressing and often confrontational situations when entering a property, in order to enforce a court order.”
“The new function is particularly suited to them and other lone workers such estate agents, district nurses and carers, who face increased risks whenever working alone on premises other than their employer’s, particularly when meeting people they’ve never met before. Timed Check-In brings lone worker safety into sharp focus, because it enables users to set timescales per job on their phone. If a worker doesn’t check out after checking in, for example for a 30 minute job, an alert will be triggered and the account administrators notified via SMS and email.”
The app also gives users access to a panic button, clearly visible on their device. When a panic alert is activated, the app makes immediate contact with its monitoring station, which can be configured to share information with emergency services if necessary. The app also transmits covert audio to the station, aiding the account administrators and/ or monitoring team to identify any issues facing the end-user.
Additionally, monitoring staff may seek “proof of life” from the user by asking, in case the device has fallen into the wrong hands, questions that, collectively, only the user can answer correctly.
The app operates on all smartphone and satellite phone platforms, from the iPhone to Android and Windows phones, and Satellite Trackers for use when no mobile coverage is available.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust advises staff to carry out their own ‘risk assessment’ before entering any premises, and advises that if staff feel at all uncomfortable or unsure, they should make an excuse and leave, trusting their instincts. Employers need to support their decisions on this.
However, by using a people tracking app, employers can also offer additonal reassurance and comply with their duties to keep lone workers safe under The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.