Most common sites and scenes for violent attacks against lone workers
Utility workers operating in residential, public, or remote areas are at an increased risk for the opportunity of violent attack. Unlike a secure job site, these environments have an increased probability of dealing with individuals not involved with the job at hand. These circumstances can range from a construction crew operating machinery outside of an apartment building early in the morning to a cable technician disconnecting an individual's power for missed bills.
There are some professions and work environments where employees are going to face increased chances of a violent attack. If utility workers encounter a circumstance where they may be dealing with an irritate or unstable customer or individual, it is crucial to have company processes in place to protect the safety of the employees. Many utility companies are now training employees in a new skill: de-escalation, for this exact reason.
Most susceptible lone worker employees and roles
- Fibre / Cable Technicians
- Meter Readers
- Construction Crews
- Residential Lineworkers
- Residential Electricians
- Public Utility Employees
- Mail Delivery people
- Social Workers
Aside from the roles listed above, anyone who works with cash works overnight (or in dimly lit areas), or with a volatile public audience will have an outsized risk score.
Best practices, procedures, and policies
In general, to reduce the likelihood of a violent attack at work, it is important to have strong cash control. Keeping cash away from eyesight will reduce the likelihood of a cash motivated attack. At nighttime, floodlights to keep areas well-lit can also help act as a deterrent to criminal activity, combined with entry and exit control the risk is greatly reduced.
Proper signage can help reduce the likelihood of a criminal attack as well. Be sure to provide the necessary equipment for your employees so they can contact emergency services if they are threatened or have been attacked.
To reduce customer/client violence, focus must shift from facility management to employee preparedness. Situational awareness and the ability for staff to recognize behavioral cues and de-escalate volatile situations become increasingly important.
Interpersonal communication skills are critical. Demonstrating empathy, and even doing something as simple as asking “what is your name” can help defuse a situation.
Technology requirements for lone workers at risk of violent attack
The above practices and procedures can help mitigate violent attacks, however, it’s prudent to have a failsafe or safety net for when an incident occurs despite taking all the correct actions to prevent it.
Let’s start with the panic button. A panic button can be worn as a wearable, or part of a GPS device or cellular app. You can discretely notify your monitoring team that you need immediate assistance without spooking the threat in front of you. Alternatively, you can deploy a panic button that sounds a blaring alarm with flashing lights, potentially scaring away the threat. The nature of your employee’s most common threats and your specific escalation procedures will determine which option is best for your organization.
Location services are also important. You can achieve this with a cellular app that tracks your location, or a satellite GPS device. If you choose to use a satellite GPS device such as the Blackline G7x you’ll also be able to monitor man down events or no motion. That way, if an employee is attacked before they can signal for help, the man down alert will still execute, and your monitoring team can use the two-way communication function to check on the employee in real-time.
Lastly, a dedicated monitoring team. While you may not think of this as part of your tech stack, the monitoring team is what enables your tech stack to deliver its value. More on that below.
Minimum requirements for a lone worker procedure
A good lone worker procedure has four minimum requirements:
- Hazard assessment: Conduct a hazard assessment and take measures to eliminate the hazard or minimize the risk. Hazard assessments are often done during a job brief, job site analysis, or toolbox talks. Telelink promotes a five-step risk assessment for lone workers, which you can access here.
- 24/7 Check-in: Establish a check-in procedure to ensure 24/7 contact is kept with all employees and a designated monitoring team is available. The execution of your escalation procedure often comes down to the preparation and professionalism of the monitoring team. Understand the differences between virtual monitoring solutions, automated response check-ins and live monitoring by a dedicated team.
- Two-way communication: Provide employees with two-way communication. If cellular phones are unreliable in remote areas, be sure to have alternate methods available such as satellite devices. Low-tech solutions such as text or call to check-in also work well as long as the employee has access to a landline or mobile phone.
- Location: It is important to know the exact location of lone workers in as close to real-time as possible. Whenever appropriate, use security measures such as surveillance cameras, rounded mirrors, and GPS technology.
3rd party monitoring for lone workers
There are a few options for monitoring your lone workers. If you only have 1-2 lone workers and they work regular business hours, an internal monitoring solution like having a supervisor monitor may suffice. However, best practice, and for any organization with dozens or hundreds of lone workers, you will want to partner with a 3rd party monitoring team.
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.
This can be the difference between a frazzled supervisor who steps out for a cigarette only to return to an alert sent by his employee in distress and botching the escalation, and the calm, collected demeanor of a trained monitoring expert. In an emergency, every second counts.
Telelink is a one-stop-shop for lone worker safety. Instead of manufacturing smartphone apps or GPS devices we maintain an unbiased position where we are able to guide our partners to the technology that fits them best. For most organizations, one solution does not address all employee risk profiles. In the utility industry for example, we often see a mix of Satellite and connected gas detection devices for employees in confined or remote spaces, plus a more affordable app-based solution for the employees who remain within cell service.
After we help you source the best technology, we also help craft your escalation procedure. During onboarding, our customer success team assists with training and adoption through custom training sessions as well as recorded content to distribute to your team. Then, our 24/7 dedicated monitoring team does the rest. Your employees can confidently enter the field and never truly be alone.