Patrick Dealtry

Nov 282014

[This article  appeared in SHPOnline in November 2014]

How can you as an employer practically protect your Lone Workers when it is patently obvious that you cannot do so in any conventional sense?

Since you cannot be with them in an emergency, (when they would not then be Lone Workers) you must go as far as you can in helping them to help themselves.

Consider Protection as consisting of two components; Prevention and Response.  Prevention is achieved by embedding ways in which employees avoid difficult situations in the first place.  Response is there when protection fails.  The two are as close to Protection as is possible without sending them out with the SAS – when they would cease to be Lone Workers anyway.

While Prevention may reduce the number of occasions where a Lone Worker will get into a situation which will result in their harm, ‘reduce’ is not the same as ‘eliminate’, so there will always be a need for Response Services.

Response with Prevention in isolation are still insufficient; adding Training and Management will result in a culture of safe working, in other words – Protection.


Prevention starts with a well thought out policy leading to sensible procedures which are developed in consultation with the lone working employees and their managers.


Sooner or later Prevention will fail and an employee will need a Response; and it must be fast and effective.

This where a sensible organisation will choose a service based on the British Standard for Lone Worker response – BS8484 – and for added value also a BSIA member.


Training binds Prevention and Response together.  Training should cover:

  • Application of policies and procedures
  • How to make best use of Lone Worker Response devices
  • Awareness and how to avoid potentially dangerous situations
  • How to manage dangerous situations
  • The role of personal responsibility for personal safety


Good management has to balance the needs of the organisation against the needs of the individual.   Management must protect the organisation in law with its reputation and effectiveness intact, while protecting the individual employees out on their own in the community, other workplaces or in transit between them.

A manager with responsibility for protecting Lone Workers needs to consider many factors; among them:

  • How best to achieve protection for both the organisation and Lone Workers  without jeopardising the work they are employed to do?
  • What can be done in-house and what can be outsourced?
  • How will initial and follow-up training be delivered? In-house or outsourced?
  • How will Lone Workers be motivated to always follow the procedures laid down for them, including use of Lone Worker Response services?
  • What reports will help manage the contract and how will they be delivered?
  • Regular reviews with Lone Workers

Prevention & Response without Training and Management is like a car without a driver – looks fine in the car park but not much good when you want to go anywhere serious.

Prevention + Response + Training + Management = Protection


Nov 202014

(This article was published in the NHS Protect newsletter in November 2014 and is reproduced here with their permission)


Most of us learned the basics of risk, without being really aware of it, at our mother’s knee.

Look before you cross the road

Don’t accept lifts from strangers

And so on.

However that is not really enough in today’s world where we are long gone from the parental umbrella and exposed to anything life has to throw at us.  We have personal responsibility.

Increasingly in the workplace personal responsibility is seen as the job of the organisation rather than the individual.   To an extent this is right, but in the case of Lone Workers it must be a combination of the two.  The Lone Worker, because they are on their own as far as the organisation is concerned, must also look out for themselves.  The Organisation, because they still have their Duty of Care, must give the Lone Worker the tools to do so.

It is a big responsibility for both because while the individual stands in the way of harm, the organisation may lose a valuable employee, at least for a period, and stand accused of failing in its duties.  This can have potentially devastating consequences with the threat of legislation and litigation

We know that these events may not happen often, but happen they do and must be taken seriously.

The Lone Worker market

The Lone Worker market got under way in the UK about 12 years ago and we are now seen as leading the world.  Among organisations, public and private, the NHS was in the lead in its understanding of the issues and the need to do something about it.

The British Standard for Lone Worker services, BS8484, was issued in 2009 and was a success in that it enabled the highest level of police response, gave structure to the market and provided a yardstick for companies wishing to supply services and organisations wishing to buy them. The NHS played an influential part in developing the standard.

Some facts and terms

Police response

The police will only provide their highest level of response to Lone Worker alarms received from an Alarm Receiving Centre accredited to BS8484 Part 6 which requires a special URN (see below). If not then the alternative is the much slower and less certain 999 system.

Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC)

An ARC is a monitoring centre which is protected physically and electronically with highly trained staff and which meets BS5979 for all sorts of alarm monitoring.  For Lone Worker monitoring its also has to meet BS8484 Part 6 where operators have two main responsibilities:

  1. Verifying Lone Worker alarms to ensure that false alarms do not get passed on to the police or other response service
  2. Managing a verified alarm to completion in accordance with the instructions of the customer

Unique Reference Number (URN)

This is a special Lone Worker URN and is issued by each police force to an ARC against the criteria laid down in Appendix V (for Lone Workers), of their Security Systems Policy.


A standard for suppliers and buyers of Lone Worker services which are based on a device or app.  It has 4 main parts:

  1. Part 4 for the Company supplying services
  2. Part 5 for the device or app
  3. Part 6 for the ARC
  4. Part 7 for response

Response standard

The recently issued BS7984-2:2014 is for security companies providing Keyholding and Mobile response services and who wish to also provide a response to Lone Worker alarms.

Lone Worker alarm

The ARC operator needs 3 vital pieces of information before managing a Lone Worker alarm; accurate location, identity and personal details and the situation.  The situation is normally acquired through an audio link and other information which may come from a timer, pre-alert or man-down function.

Best practice – what to look for

Because the NHS Security Management Service, or NHS Protect as it now is, were involved in the standard’s development they have a service which, as far as possible, suits their requirements.

Knowing this and as promoters of Best Practice, NHS Trusts can lead by example and use Lone Worker services that are accredited to the standard.

This shows that Trusts are protecting their Lone Workers and themselves by using services that result from investment in the highest standard of service which they need and which their employees deserve.

There are though a number of items anyone should check when selecting a company supplying Lone Worker Services.

  • Accreditations
    • Are they accredited to BS8484 Part 4?
    • Do they use an ARC accredited to BS8484 Part 6?
    • Are their devices or apps certified to BS8484 Part 5?
  • Suppliers should be able to produce certificates for BS8484 Parts 4 and 6, issued by either NSI or SSAIB as the only two organisations authorised by the police to provide accreditation resulting in their highest level of police response
  • Satisfy yourselves that they are financially stable, now and for the term of any contract
  • Are they properly insured; check their certificate?
  • Does the ARC hold URNs for the police force(s) which cover your area?
  • Are staff with access to User personal details security screened to BS7858?
  • Do they have an efficient complaints and customer service function?
  • If a Smartphone app is being considered, does it work properly on your Smartphone make and model?
  • Does the mobile network provide coverage in your area?
  • Is training included? How is training for new staff covered?  Does training include awareness and how to deal with threatening situations?
  • Are management reports supplied?

Additionally it is worth noting that members of the British Security Industry Association Lone Worker Section are accredited to BS848 and are also required to meet ISO9001.

The future

BS8484:20011 will be revised over the next year or so, a process in which the NHS will be invited to share.  The process is likely to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

That apart, some companies are expanding their services to include workforce safety and workforce management.

Others are:

  • Providing web-based monitoring applications that can be viewed from a PC or handheld device
  • Venturing into the world of Telecare
  • Offering international services

There is a growth in Smartphone applications for operating systems including iOS, Blackberry, Android and Windows.  Customers should make sure the app they are proposing to use will work on their make and model of Smartphones.


Jun 062014

This was written for SHP On-line for the H&S Expo Lone Worker Arena

Though well short of maturity the Lone Worker market is probably at the stage where customer service will be the key differentiator between service providers.

Before you provide the service it helps to know what the customer wants.   And before that you need to know who the customer is.

In many cases, perhaps most, the customer is going to materialise in the person of the Health & Safety manager.  It could be the Security Manager; but two not very productive years of Lone Worker stands at IFSEC would indicate otherwise. After all, generally speaking, the security manager’s role stops at the edge of the building or property, whereas the Health & Safety manager’s responsibilities are for employee safety and security wherever they are in the world.  And for security managers the employee can be the security problem.

What the Health & Safety manager wants from a Lone Worker service is probably answers to some or all of the following questions:

  • Does it protect the lone working employees?
  • Does it protect the company from legislation and litigation?
  • Is the solution proportionate to the risk?
  • Do they give impartial advice?
  • Can they help with all sorts of training?
  • Is it so expensive that the FD does not like it?
  • Is it easy to use?
  • Does it provide good management reports?
  • Will it keep me in my job?
  • Should I take a service accredited to British Standard 8484?

Getting the right service means knowing what you want, which also means knowing what is available.  Many Health & Safety managers do know but many don’t. Hopefully some of you will be at S&H Expo and visit the Lone Worker area to find out – among the many other things you want to explore.

As Donald Rumsfeld famously said;

“There are known knowns; these are things that we know we know.

There are known unknowns; that is to say that there are things that we know we don’t                         know.

But there are also unknown unknowns- there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

And as Einstein said ‘the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask’.

Come to the Lone Worker arena at S&H Expo and ask the questions to find out the things you know you don’t know and those you don’t know that you don’t know.

Questions that only fully accredited Lone Worker service companies can provide.

Jun 012014


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.


Apr 192014

(This article was first published for IFSEC Global in May 2014)


An alarm raised by a Lone Worker or other vulnerable person is a cry for help – for a response.  It is in the ARC that the response is organised and without it the device or app which initiates the alarm is of limited value.

The aim of this article is to shed some light on ARCs and their increasing importance in protecting Lone Workers and other vulnerable people.

Expanding applications

Estimates put the number of Lone Workers in the UK at around 6 million.

What started in the UK some 10 years ago as a service for them and their employers has expanded to include other vulnerable people.   While Lone Workers are still the main application in the UK, there is increasing use of these services in countries where individuals are at significant risk from attack.

International travellers also use these services but providing a response for an individual in another country is still a problem.  Last year there were over 50 million journeys abroad by UK citizens.  No doubt similar figures apply to other nations.  During that period there were 19,000 applications for assistance to the Foreign & Commonwealth office.

The technology developed for managing Lone Worker alarms is flexible.  More applications have developed to help other vulnerable people including care for the aged, treating patients at home, domestic violence victims, those living in hostile environments and international travellers.

The flexibility is based on the capabilities of the monitoring software in the ARC and what it can do with the location, identity and situation information provided by the device or app.

How it works

The four elements to such services, which combine man and machine, are:

  • The individual with a problem
  • The device or app which generates and communicates the alarm message and opens an audio link
  • The software in the ARC which receives the message, presents it in a useful form to the operator together with other pre-recorded personal and other information about the individual and their instructions
  • The operator who combines their judgment and experience with the available information, including that from the audio link, to request the appropriate response

The ARC operator and the monitoring application work together with the information needed to initiate a response; location, identity and situation.  These are essential to a) verify the alarm as genuine and b) give the information necessary to provide a proportionate response.

At the ARC – the monitoring application

For the purposes of this article there are three types of alarm monitoring software:

  • Commercially available
  • Dedicated Lone Worker
  • Web based solutions

The majority of ARCs use commercially available alarm management software to monitor intruder alarms, fire alarms, remote CCTV and vehicle theft. They integrate all alarm sources into the one operator monitoring station.

This works well because the alarm source is generally machine initiated and, in general terms, the operator follows an on-screen script or instructions to deal with them, often within a couple of minutes.

However Lone Worker alarms are different in that the alarm is, with the exception of time out and man down alarms, initiated by a person who needs the operator to remain in contact via a 2-way audio link throughout the alarm, from initiation to completion.  By their nature Lone Worker alarms are unpredictable as to situation and can last for some time.  This goes against the basics of other types of alarm where the finances are based on maximum connection numbers and minimum operator numbers.

For this reason two Lone Worker companies have their own dedicated Lone Worker ARCs with their own custom-built monitoring applications and their highly trained operators.

Web based monitoring

Lately providers of Smartphone apps have developed their own web based monitoring applications. These are more flexible and can be integrated into an ARC.

These companies, and there are only two or three of them at present, develop software that is more flexible in application, easier to upgrade and develop.  They can therefore include a wider range of services based on their ability to use the available information and present it in different ways, including the benefits of more advanced workforce management and direction.

Such web based systems are more able to operate internationally and put the focus where it should be – in the monitoring centre.

The UK ARC is a sophisticated entity governed by British and EU standards.  For those living in more hostile environments, and for international travellers, web based solutions are likely to be of increasing importance where the accompanying language issues demand the interoperability between operators in different countries with different languages.  For them he ability to transfer alarm details across the web and across international borders using the same monitoring software, albeit in different languages, may well become vital.

The ARC operator

The variety of human situations which can lead to an alarm is almost limitless.  Therefore the most effective operators are those who have the knowledge and experience to apply their judgment to any given situation.  This is not something for everyone particularly considering the violent situations they might have to listen to while maintaining a calm and competent demeanour.

Operators are the ‘friend’ of those in trouble and may be the only link between them and disaster.

For this reason the Lone Worker ARC operator is a special type of person and should be selected accordingly.  They may be dealing with social alarms at one moment and extreme situations at another where their knowledge, experience and judgement, applied without time to refer to someone else, may be critical.


Bearing in mind the potential for extreme situations it is right that there is some control over who provides these services and the operators in the ARCs who will be looking after your employees.  Also the emergency services do not want the sort of false alarm rates that occurred, and still occur, with intruder alarms.

In the UK the relevant British Standard is BS8484 which is demanded by the police for their highest level of response.  Part 6 applies to the ARC, the operator and their training.

The British Security Industry association, (BSIA), has a dedicated Lone Worker section which represents the most responsible end of suppliers who have put significant resources into achieving the standard.  The BSIA also offers extra protection to customers.

It is in the interest of responsible organisations to choose suppliers who can demonstrate certification to the standard, not mere ‘compliance’.  To meet the standard in the UK ARCs must be certified to both BS8484 Part 6 and Category 2 of BS5979.


Lone Worker alarm Technology has expanded to include other personal safety and security services for a wider range of potentially vulnerable people.

What happens in the ARC and the experience, training and knowledge of the operator is critical to a successful outcome to both extreme and mundane situations.

Web based monitoring solutions, with their inherent flexibility, are gaining momentum, especially internationally.

Anyone using Lone Worker services is well advised to use companies that are certificated to the British Standard for Lone Worker alarms, BS8484.


Patrick Dealtry

1 May 2014

Mar 062014

Written for Land Mobile Magazine  March 2014


A recent report stated that 70 per cent of emergency calls originate from mobile phones.  This is an obvious benefit of mobile technology but many callers are unable to give a sufficiently precise location and information to enable the best response.

There are a number of apps which allow smartphones to transmit location which can form a basis for monitoring vulnerable people.  However for emergencies such arrangements raise four questions: 1) is it secure?; 2) will there be sufficient information?; 3) will the person you are calling be available?; and 4) if so can they do anything useful about it?

Lone Workers

This term has entered common usage over the last 10 years or so although as the technology involved has developed it has embraced wider applications.

It is worth explaining how Lone Worker services operate – a classic example of the synergy of man and machine working together.  There are four elements:

  • The individual with a problem
  • The device or app which generates and distributes the alarm message and opens the audio connection to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), over the mobile network
  • The software in the ARC which receives the alarm message, presents it in a useful form to the operator together with other pre-recorded personal information about the individual and their instructions
  • The operator who combines their judgment and experience with the available information, including that from the audio link, to request the appropriate response

The ARC operator is central to the operation.  The mobile technology enables the three pieces of information needed to initiate a response; location, identity and situation.  These are essential to a) verify the alarm as genuine and b) give the information necessary to provide a proportional response.

As well as safeguarding employees, Lone Worker services can act as protection against litigation for the employer as it limits the amount of vulnerability if anything goes wrong.

Wider applications

This is a highly flexible system.  The initial input can apply to a wide variety of other situations, e.g.

  • High risk domestic violence victims
  • The elderly – allowing them to remain longer in their homes
  • Those with selected medical problems – enabling them to be treated at home rather than hospital
  • Some of those in care of the social services

Monitoring application – the ARC

What happens at the ARC is critical.   The device or app will have transmitted the alarm message over the mobile network and followed it up with a two-way audio connection.

The alarm message will have triggered a response from the Lone Worker platform which presents the operator with information regarding the individual and their location.  The audio link will provide information about the individual’s situation.  Both sources of information enable the operator to use their judgment and experience to make the decision about what to do next.

Depending on the device or app the monitoring application can use location information in different ways.  For example if the system is sending regular locations it can provide a history of the person’s movement.  It may be configured to show the locations of several individuals in a team used in a workforce management role as well as transmitting emergencies.

One essential element of the monitoring application is the pre-recorded personal details and instructions.  Details may include; medical, contact, employment, age, gender and ethnicity. Instructions will include who to call in an emergency.

Response necessities

Most situations relate to some sort of emergency which may occur at almost any time.  Therefor it is important that the message is received by a person who can really do something about it who must:

  • Be 100 per cent available 24/7
  • Have the experience and judgement to deal with an almost limitless range of situations
  • Haveaccess to essential information about the individual to assess the situation and request the right response
  • Have direct access to the emergency services
  • Be known by the emergency services, giving them confidence that it is a genuine situation and allowing them to respond accordingly

Lone worker standard

There are many providers of such services with an often bewildering variety of solutions.  Fortunately there is a British Standard, BS8484, which should be used as an initial filter.

Personal emergency response systems will not be accepted by emergency services in the UK without the intervention of a third party (i.e. the ARC) to provide a ‘validated’ alarm, which is why the introduction of BS8484 has been championed.

The companies who have achieved certification to this standard have invested in the resources to deliver a best-practice service that delivers a guarantee of security for Lone Workers, appropriate to the potential seriousness of emergency situations. Fully-certified BS8484 services are the only acceptable standard for obtaining a police response to Lone Worker alarms. Several such suppliers have also added the wider applications to their available services.

A list of BS8484 accredited suppliers cab be found at:

The British Security Industry Association has a useful web site for further information at

Mobile network

Clearly, this whole service depends almost entirely on the mobile network.  There are procedural ways to mitigate this dependence such as the use of pre-recorded messages and timers.   These are less effective but still a necessary part of the service.

Devices or apps should be able to work in minimal communications by sending messages in advance of audio and be able drop down to SMS if GPRS is not available.  Such arrangements go some way to mitigate degraded or lost communications. Purchasers should be aware of these vulnerabilities and ask potential suppliers how they would combat them. Innovative companies will go even further to mitigate the risk – Argyll, for example, offer regular communication link checks.


Lone Worker protection is a complex business depending on a robust mobile network.  It is vital for users of Lone Worker services to seek out BS8484 accredited companies as a minimum requirement because they offer the best guarantee of security for vulnerable people and reduces any ambiguity of legal responsibility for the employer.

Patrick Dealtry

Feb 062014

It can seem odd that it is accepted practice for organisations to make a big investment in the security of employees inside their buildings whilst at the same time failing to make a substantial investment in general health and safety protection for their employees.

What is the difference?

In security terms, employee protection is just one of a company’s many assets that need to be protected.

On the other hand, health and safety is totally focused on individuals in their environment and the harm that can come to them.

Both are intended to protect the organisation as well as the individual, often including protecting the individual themselves from doing something that will make the organisation vulnerable. This dichotomy is difficult as protecting the individual and the organisation are not necessarily the same thing.

Perhaps this difficulty can be best summarised in the famous quote from Donald Rumsfeld (which although not, could easily have been aimed at risk assessors)

“There are known knowns; there are things that we know we know.

There are known unknowns ; that is to say that there are things that we know we don’t                         know.

But there are also unknown unknowns- there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

Where both health and safety and security provisions do have something in common is the general focus they often have on the employee within the confines of a building, despite the reality that protection outside of a building is a different process.  It could be said that this focus comes from the fact that there are more of Rumsfeld’s ‘knowns’ when inside a building, whereas protection for the ‘unknowns’ that can exist outside are far more difficult to account for.

Organisations have a responsibility to protect their assets: equipment, cash, stock, information systems, products and so on. Buildings are a convenient framework to contain and protect these assets, explaining the previously mentioned indoor focus. What is often missed however are the intangible company assets such as reputation that need to be considered.

In order to ensure focus on furthering the purpose of an organisation, both tangible and intangible assets need to be fully considered.

Security vs Health and Safety

To return the problem of security vs health and safety, the security function has to concentrate on asset protection using the investment in hardware, for example CCTV or access controlled entrances.

Health and safety provision exists for the protection of the workers themselves. People are employed due to their skills and knowledge, but also have minds of their own that they tend to use, and not always predictably. Here lies the key concern for health and safety, risk and unpredictability are not happy bedfellows.

This unpredictability is particularly obvious when employees leave the security of their work building when they become vulnerable to violence, abuse, accidents, illness and injury. All the security paraphernalia available to them within the work environment now becomes useless in looking after them. At this point employees, (despite being the most important part of an organisation) have become their most vulnerable asset.

What can easily be overlooked is the fact that the employees are just as much the responsibility of their organisation as they were when they were in their place of work, despite the discrepancy in the amount of security cover they receive in each location.

People as assets

How often do we hear senior management or a CEO state that ‘My people are my biggest asset?’  So why do more organisations not look after them when they are at their most vulnerable?

A CCTV system will cost several thousand pounds and come with a warranty and a service contract.  There is no such warranty or service contract on an employee. Instead if an employee (to use a crude analogy) ‘breaks’ then the process of mending or replacing them comes at a cost to the organisation rather than a contractor, whether that be in recruitment, morale or even legal costs.

Also unlike CCTV, employees have a voice and are increasingly likely to use their voice to show employers they are not satisfied with the safety provisions they are given. Employees will accept that their job may include an element of danger but they will not accept being inadequately protected when faced with a real life situation that could lead to harm.

Employees will react much more positively if their concerns for their safety are taken seriously and measures put in place to reassure them. If they are not there is real potential for staff to simply find another job where they are better protected, or simply drop their productivity to avoid difficult situations.

Between two factors

Part of the problem is that that the responsibility for health and safety often falls between the two areas of security and health and safety, and exhibitions are a case in point.

At any security exhibition you will see rows and rows of things designed to protect buildings- and by extension any people that are within them.

At any health and safety exhibition the focus is very much the same, lots of things to protect employees inside buildings but very little to protect them when they are outside and more vulnerable.

With many buildings being something of fortress, organisations should have the opportunity to move onto what is now (in our predominately service economy) the most vulnerable part of a company’s operations- their people

Signs of change

Signs of change are however on the horizon. Lone worker safety is one of the fastest growing markets in the industry. In 2012 it featured for the first time at IFSEC and again in 2013, (albeit in a less than obvious corner!), however for 2014, the lobe worker stage has forsaken security altogether and moved to the Safety and Health exhibition.

Companies that provide lone worker services are entrepreneurial, innovative and taking business risk by doing something which saves lives and prevents serious injury. Their services protect employees from legislation and litigation while giving ‘external’ staff greater confidence as they go about their employer’s daily business.

Corporate Manslaughter Act

Many would say that the Corporate Manslaughter Act is a barely relevant piece of legislation because only 4 prosecutions have been made to date. As the following statistics illustrate however, those that underestimate the potential effectiveness of the act will be very unwise:

  • Current investigations: 56
  • Increase in investigations over the past year: 40%
  • Organisations charged in the first 4 months of 2013: 4

(Pinsent Mason, April 2013)

Questions for the future

While the Lone Worker market has grown quickly over the last few years, there are still far too many organisations resisting taking the relatively simple and inexpensive steps required to protect their lone workers.

Why is this? Perhaps one reason is that as such a new market, Lone Worker protection has not directly placed itself as either a safety or a security service.

The best answer to this would seem to be for the Lone Worker protection to stand on its own as market in its own right and not as a part of anyone else’s. The third annual Lone Worker conference held at London’s Olympia in November 2013 illustrated how the market has gone from strength to strength and its potential for the future. Who knows maybe one day it will perhaps replace the Safety and Health Conference and IFSEC?

Next time you think about investing in CCTV, why not focus on the people instead?

Feb 152013

Firts published on BSIA web site in February 2013

This is both a first and a last; the first Lone Worker blog for the BSIA and the last blog before the Lone Worker Group becomes a fully-fledged Section in its own right.

This is a good thing; a New Year means new beginnings and it reflects a time at which the Lone Worker market is coming of age.  

So first let me look backward and then forward.  10 years ago there was no such thing as a Lone Worker market.  Those of us in at the start had to create it from scratch – and it was hard work.  It needed a belief and a good dash of optimism as we lurched forward.  There were a number of significant milestones;

  • creation of a British Standard at an early stage which gave structure, discipline and credibility
  • appreciation by Lone Worker suppliers that this was about service not technology
  • acceptance by ACPO that Lone Worker devices did not result in huge numbers of false alarms and were not a problem for their control rooms and response services
  • the impact of the very large NHS contract
  • first prosecution under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act – which was for a Lone Worker
  • the start of the BSIA Lone Worker group
  • technical advances resulting in more capable and practical devices
  • advent of downloadable apps for smartphones
  • entry into the market of large companies like G4S, Mitie and Securitas
  • expansion into Lone Worker monitoring by an increasing numbers of ARCs.

Perhaps this period from 2003 to 2012 is best described as a ‘period of education’ for both suppliers and customers; suppliers who discovered what customers really wanted and customers who understand that paying attention to the needs of their Lone Workers really is important for their businesses.

So much for the past, what of the future?  I believe the ‘period of education’ will turn into a ‘period of expansion’.   There are probably about 140,000 Lone Worker devices in use at present and many more low risk employees using low level non-standard services.

I believe the next 12 months will see:

  • the number of devices double – despite difficult trading conditions
  • moves into international markets
  • the introduction of more smartphone apps
  • entry into the Lone Worker market of established companies already supplying other location based services such as asset and vehicle tracking
  • development of the BSIA Lone Worker Section leading to increasing differentiation between companies in the Section and those outside it
  • development of the consumer market
  • greater focus on training in all aspects of personal safety

Making forecast for the following year is a bit of a mugs game.  Fortunately if a week is a long time in politics, then a year in the security industry is long enough for most to forget what happened 12 months ago.

We shall see.