In a contributed article for Internet of Business, Peter Marsden, managing director of Doro UK & Ireland, explains how technology originally developed for elderly care could be a lifeline for lone workers.
There are six million lone workers in the UK. These are people defined by the Health and Safety Executive as those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. They could be community nurses visiting patients outside of the hospital, for example, or workers at remote construction sites.
Unfortunately, working alone leads to a higher risk of injury. In 2015/16, an estimated 4.5 million working days were lost due to self-reported workplace injuries. On average, that’s 7.2 days per case.
One reason is that employers of staff who work alone, particularly those operating in potentially hazardous fields, find it difficult to constantly monitor health and safety procedures. Simple logistical and financial concerns make it an issue. But with the annual cost of work-related injuries and new cases of illness in 2014/15 reaching £14.1 billion, employers are now looking to connected technologies to combat the issue.
With recent advances in technology, there are devices and services available that can monitor the status of lone workers to help keep them safe.
Take community nurses, for example: any technology solution that they use around vulnerable patients will need to be unobtrusive and convenient, so the natural step is to look at the technology they have to hand – like a smartphone or wristwatch.
These nurses are already more than likely to be carrying a personal device, so incorporating a similar one into their daily routine would be straightforward. Some IoT-enabled devices can be designed to not only allow employers to track employees’ movements, but also be alerted to any abnormalities in their schedule, without the worker needing to interact with it directly.
It’s this ease of use, paired with the fact most people already carry a personal device with them, that offers a smart avenue for employers of lone workers.
A surprising background
But the background to this technology might surprise you – it was originally developed for seniors.
Seniors (people over 65), like lone workers, often spend lengthy periods alone, and friends and family might want to monitor their movements to ensure they’re safe. If something changes in their regular routine, it can be a sign that something is amiss.
Seniors benefit from technology that lets them contact someone they know quickly and they need to be able to do that even if they’re not physically able to dial a number.
Some specialist providers offer devices equipped with an assistance button. When pressed, in the event of a fall for example, the device can immediately contact a list of pre-programmed numbers, alerting family members immediately.
Applying senior tech to lone workers
When applied to lone workers, these types of devices translate seamlessly. A construction worker based at an unattended site could slip and fall or get trapped. Being able to easily alert their employer in this scenario can be life-saving. If they can’t reach their smartphone, devices designed for seniors – such as a connected wrist trigger – can be a true lifeline. Having access to these types of devices would significantly reduce the risks facing lone workers.
And for employers, there are services that offer remote provisioning and supervision capabilities, meaning the status of a device can be constantly monitored remotely – including any alarm events. This means that employers can monitor whether an employee has not moved for an extended period of time, for example.
Services such as these can also monitor for lost network connection, low battery, safety timer activation or inactivity – the sort of thing that could signal that something dangerous has happened.
These devices can automatically send a notification to a colleague, manager, employer or out-of-hours monitoring company, with the user’s exact location, so they can be found straight away. These types of services can significantly reduce the risk of work-related injuries, and save businesses millions lost due to injured staff.
As more employees work remotely, often away from colleagues and friends, making use of the devices they already have to hand to ensure their wellbeing can be a life-saving choice.