There are three ways an employer can monitor their lone workers. This article will review each option to help you make an informed decision about which method is best for your organization. The most proactive lone worker solutions are rendered ineffective if the person or team monitoring the alerts misses a check-in or does not escalate properly.
The risks that lone workers face can often be described as Black Swan events, low probability, high severity of impact. That’s why monitoring every check-in is critical to the safety of your team.
The three ways a company can monitor lone workers are: internally by supervisors or other employees, virtual monitoring, or 3rd party monitoring.
- Internal: Some companies choose to have supervisors monitor their lone workers. This is perhaps the riskiest option and usually does not last long as supervisors’ work-life balance is often compromised.
Supervisors have their own list of tasks and responsibilities every day. Monitoring lone workers adds a layer of responsibility they are often uncomfortable with because of how severe the impact could be if they miss a check-in. It is also impossible for a supervisor to be attentive 100% of the time as supervisors must eat, sleep, shower, take calls and participate in meetings; all of which could lead to a critical missed check-in.
It is also important to understand the impact that a missed check-in could have; not only on the victim of the incident but the supervisor who was responsible for monitoring them. At best, it could lead to poor team morale, at worst, it could result in the supervisor needing time off or leaving the company all together after enduring a tragic event. In Canada, the supervisor can be held criminally responsible and face jail time, fines, or both.
When it works: For companies with 1-2 lone workers, a supervisor or manager may be acceptable. As long as the employee(s) working alone only do so for short periods of time, never in the evening or overnight, and the supervisor is able to dedicate his or her full attention while being responsible for monitoring the employee(s) is this method recommended.
When it doesn’t work: For companies with employees who work alone overnight, sporadically throughout the day, or have dozens of lone workers in multiple locations.
For organizations that are large enough, an internal monitoring centre may be warranted. This is, however, a massive undertaking and quite a large cost, not to mention the management and administrative responsibilities that come with hiring, training, and running an entire monitoring centre. Even then, the organization may be faced with pushback from employees who do not want managers monitoring them for fear of “big brother” watching their every move.
A lot of utility companies, for example, have existing 24/7 teams that monitor their electrical infrastructure, and these teams are sometimes tasked with monitoring the lone workers. This approach presents additional risk as the team's focus is really on the system and they can't give their full attention to lone workers. They also aren't trained in how to respond to health emergencies and dispatch emergency responders.
- Virtual Monitoring: Don’t be fooled by buzzwords in the industry; virtual or automated monitoring solutions are not monitoring at all.
Every lone worker software platform is designed to provide notifications when an employee gives a distress signal or misses a scheduled check-in. Virtual monitoring or automated monitoring is simply packaging this core feature as a monitoring solution. It is incumbent on the managers or supervisors at your organization to monitor a “virtual” or “automated” check-in solution.
Virtual monitoring is simply the deployment of a notification. There is nobody monitoring the notifications unless you designate someone like a supervisor or manager at your organization to monitor it themselves.
Buyer Beware: When shopping for a lone worker solution beware of buzzwords used to describe the monitoring aspect such as virtual or automated. Remember that all lone worker apps and platforms provide this functionality, but you must still consider who is going to action the notifications and respond. This type of solution is only appropriate in the same scenario as mentioned above; when a company only has 1-2 employees working alone, and they can have a dedicated person within the organization monitoring the workers.
- 3rd party monitoring: Many organizations choose to partner with a dedicated 3rd party monitoring centre. A 3rd party monitoring centre is the safest and most robust option for monitoring lone workers. At a 3rd party monitoring centre, there are trained safety monitoring experts whose sole responsibility is to monitor, action alerts, consistently and calmly, and dispatch appropriate emergency procedures and services based on the unique requirements and location of each company and employee.
Choosing to work with a 3rd party monitoring centre means you have appropriate facilities and technology to effectively monitor lone workers 24/7. That includes 99.99% uptime with redundant power and a live person or team trained with relevant certificates and standards monitoring the welfare of your employees.
Another benefit is that workers do not have to fret over “big brother” watching them because the monitoring centre is not concerned with productivity (like an employer might) and is only concerned with the welfare of the employees.
When it works best: Any organization that has more than 1-2 lone workers should opt for a 3rd party monitoring partner.
The right time and wrong time to upgrade your monitoring solution
There is no “right” time to upgrade your monitoring solution. While you are sourcing your lone worker apps or lone worker devices is when most organizations choose a monitoring solution, but you can also review on an annual basis, or when the risks your lone workers encounter change or evolve.
One thing is for certain, the wrong time to evaluate your monitoring method is after a serious incident occurs. Far too often this is when organizations realize the crucial gap in their lone worker program.
Want help championing a better monitoring solution for your lone workers?
For additional resources on why 3rd party monitoring is the most effective way to monitor your organization’s lone workers please visit the Telelink Emergency & Safety website. Telelink monitors thousands of lone workers and has built custom escalation procedures for some of North America’s most respected safety organizations. With 911 response times, Telelink’s 24/7 team of safety monitoring professionals are ready to respond to your lone workers the second they need help.