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Why Manual Processes to Protect Lone Working Aren't Working

If you asked 100 companies whether they have a system in place for protecting their lone workers, a good few might answer with: “well, it depends what you mean by a ‘system.’” While a small minority might have a technology-based system in place for monitoring, alerting and communications, the overwhelming majority take a traditional approach. The is the path of least resistance, a series of manual processes involving people, paper, and very little technology, to ensure compliance.

In a previous post within our series on manual processes for protecting lone workers, we outlined 5 problem areas with people and paper. At a high level, the impact of this is higher risk, increased danger to lone workers, and potential fines or prison terms for companies and their management. In this post we explore what the implications of the 5 problems are on the company that takes the manual approach.

A Manual Omission Means a Broken Process

The human element of protecting lone workers means that mistakes get made and oversights happen. When the security professional tasked with calling round the lone workers makes an error, or the busy lone manager who’s supposed to do it gets side-tracked, two things happen. The first thing is that you can no longer demonstrate you have a compliant system in place and that you are following the process to uphold your duty of care. This leaves you open to the possibility of censure and fines.

The second thing is that your lone workers are not adequately protected. If there is an emergency or an accident and it coincides with an omission in your manual process, this perfect storm can for ever alter the life of your affected lone worker and their immediate family. Manual processes paper over the cracks of a broken commitment to the safety of your staff.

Time is the Killer Factor

Time is, literally, the difference between life and death. They say that your chances of surviving a heart attack decrease by 20% every elapsed minute before you’re treated. Other life-threatening conditions or incidents will follow a similar-shaped curve. We need to respond to stricken lone workers within seconds if we possibly can, and within a few minutes at the most, because every minute counts.

When you have a manual process for check-in calls with your lone workers, they’re vulnerable for the entire time in-between. If the check-in interval is an hour or two hours, that’s an awfully long time to be left on your own, perhaps incapacitated, with no-one close to you, in a hard-to-find location behind machinery or up a gantry. Manual processes increase the potential for a more delayed response in an emergency. The impact is on the lone worker in trouble, and it can be the difference between a relatively swift recovery and a far gloomier outlook.

Reputational Threats to Your Business

A history of accidents in the workplace, or of being found to be negligent in your protection processes, doesn’t do much for the reputation of your business. The reputational threats to your business include suppliers and customers. They also include your staff, and the consequence of this affects your ability to attract and retain good staff. Employers get the staff they deserve. Good employers get good staff who stick around.

When your processes for protecting your lone workers are the minimum required, or you pay lip service to enforcing your safety procedures, this plays on the morale of your staff. They’re more likely to leave for companies with a better reputation. People can talk, and you can bet that your colleagues are discussing your company’s attitude to its staff. Are you genuinely looking out for them, or are you simply covering yourselves? When you get a bad ‘rep’, it becomes a costly business to be constantly hiring staff to plug the gaps of your high employee turnover.

Increased Costs

It may seem paradoxical, but you’re increasing your costs by doing the minimum. Many companies hire a dedicated security professional to care of monitoring and recording lone worker safety on a regular basis, as well as managing any alerting and communications that occur. There are much more cost effective – and much more efficient, more watertight and more responsive – ways of providing this level of protection, ways that are a small fraction of the cost of a full-time member of staff.

What if you don’t want to get rid of the person you’ve hired to fulfil this role that could be done better by a non-human solution? Then you still need to factor in the ‘opportunity cost’ of not deploying that person in a role where they can actually contribute and do something much more meaningful to the business that enhances the top line, rather than drains the bottom line.

Decreased productivity

Finally, as we’ve already covered, the elevated business risk you take on can impact your ability to borrow, manage your cash flow, get good supplier terms, win customers and keep good lone workers. Many companies might view lone worker protection compliance and procedures as a necessary evil, a sunk cost they can’t recover, when in fact moving away from manual processes can increase your productivity. Manual processes mean increased risks and decreased productivity. Alternatives to manual mean the opposite, namely controlled risks and increased productivity.

Talk to us about how you can avoid the implications of manual processes for protecting your lone workers.

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