This was written for SHP On-line for the H&S Show Arena June 2014
The UK Lone Worker industry is probably the most advanced in the world. It is also an export opportunity which a number of companies are pursuing by introducing their services in other countries.
There are two dimensions to this development. First is a Lone Worker service for use within a country and second for use when in someone else’s country. Increasingly the first is generating demand for the second. This demand is going to increase as more people become aware of the possibilities offered by Lone Workers devices and apps.
Last year there were over 50 million journeys abroad by UK citizens. During the same period there were over 19,000 requests for assistance from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Of course many of these journeys were for holiday and private purposes but a great many were employees traveling on the behalf of organisations.
Under UK law an employer is responsible for the safety of their employees wherever they are. Similarly, for private or holiday travel, there is usually someone else with an interest in the safety of the travellers.
There are frequent stories of employees and others getting into trouble while overseas. These are often accompanied by a lack of information as to circumstances and whereabouts. Trouble can come in many forms; from loss of passport through involvement in acts of nature to crime and terrorism; sometimes through our own actions and sometimes from the actions of others.
Currently UK companies offering a Lone Worker device/app are finding increasing demand from two main sources. These tend to be first from developed countries with a similar Health & Safety ethos, and second from countries where there is a very real everyday threat of violence.
Providing the means to enable an individual in trouble to call for help is, in a sense, the easy bit. The technology is there, the mobile networks cover large areas of the globe and if not there are services operating through satellite communications.
The problem lies is providing the response. Within your own country this is more straightforward, but it is outside your own country that the difficulty lies. And with the high and increasing levels of international travel this is going to be ever more important.
Consider just the two problems of language and different approaches to emergency service provision. Calling, for example, from a UK ARC to one in another country with a different language, and a police force which, if it exists in the areas you want, may not see it as its duty to aid a foreign national. Indeed that force may indeed be part of the problem.
There are options. The FCO’s consular service which is responsible for aiding UK citizens abroad. Their efforts would be much improved if they have the three key pieces of information necessary to provide help; location, identity and situation. However they are not an emergency service and their efforts may not provide the speed of response necessary in an emergency situation.
There are services such as International SOS and Frontier Medex which provide a high level of response but which are expensive and usually available only to major corporate.
Also if an individual belongs to an organisation with an office in that country, help can be arranged through that in-country resource.
However for the majority any request for help in another country will only work if there are pre-arranged protocols and procedures. These do not as yet exist in any major way but they are beginning to appear. One UK ARC can offer a response in a number of European countries. The major security companies should be able to provide a service of sorts where their international services are located.
But what is needed now is the agreements and protocols necessary to put together a true international network of response services for the benefit of those international travellers in trouble.
So, if you have an interest in, or are responsible for, Lone Workers or other vulnerable people in your own country or when travelling elsewhere why not come to the presentation on 19th June at 1315.