Patrick Dealtry

Feb 062013
 

An interesting article from HR Magazine whch says that the number of corporate manslaughter cases opened by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) rose 40% from 45 in 2011 to 63 in 2012, according to figures published by law firm Pinsent Masons.
Although there have been only 3 successful prosecutions so far in total 141 cases have been opened since 2009, with 56 prosecutions currently ongoing, the research revealed.
Follow the link for the full article. HR Magazine

Dec 312011
 

BS8484 was deliberately produced early on in the development of the Lone Worker market with the intention of imposing controls on false alarm rates from an early stage.

While this has been shown to be a real benefit, with a very low rate of false alarms and therefore a high level of police support, it can expose other problems which were not foreseen with little market experience.  One of these is the name ‘Lone Worker’.

While the name did not get a mention in Health & Safety legislation it is there that we find its roots.   The HSE were using the term at an early stage and it served its purpose well by highlighting the vulnerability of a specific employment group which signalled the birth of the Lone Worker market.

The Police were clearly going to be a most significant element in the market, as the primary response service, and they liked the name for two reasons:

  1. Restricting it to employees only gave a degree of built-in control against false alarms because;
    1. There was a mechanism to control bad practice and therefore reduce false alarms
    2. Services would only be purchased and used in response to a specific threat identified through a formal risk assessment process
    3. There would be training – both on using the device/service and on the avoidance and management of potentially dangerous situations
  2. The term Lone Worker effectively excludes ‘consumers’ who are by definition beyond organisational control and who would probably purchase such devices and services for more general and unspecified risk to elderly relatives and young children or teenagers.  The fear was that without the discipline of the corporate environment, including training and control over their use, many more false alarms would be created.

However, while the term has been instrumental in mobilising the market it also confuses many who are not familiar with it.  It does not immediately conjure up an image of many of those vulnerable people to whom it in fact applies.  To the initiated it implies someone whose job is essentially solitary and risky because there are no other people around them; perhaps a distant figure toiling in the field vulnerable to accident or sudden illness.  Not many organisations have such people so why should they be interested?

While this remains a possible use the most likely situations are those where there is a threat because they are not alone; that there are one or more others present who could represent a threat to them.   The term ‘Lone’ therefore has come to mean someone who is not actually alone but is ‘Lone’ in the sense of having no co-workers to come to their immediate aid if required.

Also, as various organisations have discovered the flexibility of such services and how they could be applied to all sorts of people and situations, so the term Lone Worker has become further muddled.

For example several police forces that have responsibility for the protection of high risk domestic violence victims use Lone Worker services to allow them to call for help if they need to.  By no stretch of the imagination can such people be described as Lone Workers yet Lone Worker services have, in such circumstances, saved lives, saved serious injury and put violent offenders behind bars.   While they are not Lone Workers these are certainly ‘vulnerable people’ and perhaps this would be a more accurate description?

They are also clearly at risk and maybe this would be an even better description – ‘People at Risk’?  It has the clear advantage of relating to risk which would perhaps focus people on that key word as an essential precursor to buying.

Words with imprecise meanings create false images in people’s minds.   It is quite possible that the images conjured up by the term ‘Lone Worker’ in the minds of those hearing it for the first time, without the benefit of a full explanation, are something of
a turn-off.

It is also quite possible, even probable, that this lack of precision has contributed to confusion and consequent slow development in the market.

If this is so it will, more importantly, have failed to reduce vulnerability for some ‘People at Risk’.

Do we need to think again about the name?

Nov 012011
 

This story from the Information Commissioner highlights the concerns individuals have over the security of their personal information.

For Lone Workers this is particularly important because the service provided by most Lone Worker companies does involve providing access to their personal information to 3rd parties – normally the ARC –  for the entirely reasonable purpose of effective alarm management.

Usually this information will be provided by their employer, in which case the employer will probably be the Data Controller and therefore responsible for satisfying themselves that the personal data they supply is held securely.

How can they do that? Clause 4.6 of BS8484 makes a point of data security and what the supplier company must do.

For example data must be held in a BS5979 ARC or in a data centre environment meeting the requirements specified in BS ISO/IEC 27001.

In addition clause 4.7 requires the company to have a documented data handling policy and the security screening of all personnel handling data, in accordance with BS 7858.

The policy should apply to all directly employed personnel or subcontractor employed personnel who have access to lone workers’ personal data that uniquely identifies individuals.

Top story from The ICO Oct 2011

Oct 062011
 

Vacant property management business VPS has bought SitexOrbis Holdings.

It will be interesting to see if the acquisition of SitexOrbis by VPS will affect their Lone Worker operations.

No doubt the main interest was their vacant property services but SitexOrbis were also early players in the Lone Worker market.   So it will be worth watching to see if the new owners are going to invest in the Lone Worker business.  With their pan-European and US operations they are well placed to move it forward.

However perhaps the recent departure of key staff in the Lone Worker part of the business indicates otherwise?

Oct 052011
 

Best practice in the Lone Worker market

The Lone Worker market is at a stage which if not mature is at least structured and regulated.

Both structure and regulation stem from the influence of the British Standard 8484 for the supply of Lone Worker services.

Regulation will be imposed by the customer, provide they insist on only using  companies who are BS8484 accredited.

When you write a British Standard, as I did with BS8484, you are never quite sure of the effect.  Will it be too weak, too draconian, will it stifle the market or will it stimulate it?  Will the Law of Unintended Consequences come into play and produce results which act against the interests of participants?

The effect of the Standard, with the recent simple but nonetheless demanding modifications, is most powerful when combined with the ACPO Security Systems Policy.   It has, in my view and that of responsible participants in the industry, been both benign and effective.   It has:

  • controlled false alarms to the satisfaction of the police thereby ensuring their vital support and a Level 1response
  • allowed, through its functional and not technical specification for devices, a wide variety of solutions which achieve the same end
  • benefitted end users by giving them a way of assessing suppliers of Lone Worker Services

It has lead to the development of Best Practice which, for the Employer, has provided them with a basis for:

  • fulfilling their Duty of Care to employees who may
    be out of site but not out of their responsibility zone
  • some defence against the Corporate Manslaughter
    Act

It has also spawned a new generation of associated services, with the Lone Worker protection concept at their heart, which offer real value to businesses beyond Lone Worker protection on its own.

Most importantly of all it has benefitted those in trouble by providing an effective way of calling for help when they need it.

Those companies and organisations that are serious about the protection of those for whom they are responsible are advised to look very carefully at who they use to provide that protection.

Best Practice demands, at the very least, selection of service providers who are accredited to BS8484.  This selection will provide effective, customer lead, regulation to the benefit of vulnerable people and their employers.

Sep 262011
 

National Personal Safety Day 2011!

Monday 10th October is National Personal Safety Day 2011. This year’s event is all about how to stay safe in and around the home. Police teams, councils, Neighbourhood Watch teams, workplaces, schools and college around the country will be running events to promote the campaign safety messages to their communities, using the free resources available.

If you haven’t already signed up, it’s not too late to get involved. You can get all the information you need at www.suzylamplugh.org/npsd2011 .