Why Lone Workers are Vulnerable

What any business can do to protect staff from life threats at work

The economic slowdown created by the pandemic has forced many retail chains, restaurants, hotels, banks and financial institutions with a retail presence to cut back on staff and change their business models.

Curbside Delivery

For example, many retail chains have started offering curbside delivery that forces employees to step out of the stores. They have also cut back staffing levels resulting in situations where a single employee is left to manage the third shift or handle store closing or opening at odd hours with no backup or a co-worker around. While lone employees play a critical role in keeping the business up and running, they are more at risk of encountering life threats at work. As COVID-19 and social strife continue to wreak havoc, businesses are actively evaluating options to secure and monitor the safety of their lone workers so they can work with confidence.

Lone workers have always been an important part of certain industries and businesses. Historically, convenience stores have always employed solitary workers during the third shift. There are few sales going on overnight, yet it’s still a 24-hour business.

Whether it’s taking the garbage out, delivering merchandise to customers outside the premises, or making a run to the bank Now, more than ever, employees in retail chains are finding themselves working alone. Retailers have to now proactively roll out security solutions that will give their lone workers an option to seek help if they feel threatened.

Likewise, hotel cleaning staff and maintenance crews typically work alone even when occupancy is high. Recently, hotel chains that are members of the American Hotel and Lodging Association have chosen to proactively implement a safety program for all hotel personnel.

The program includes a mandate to provide all staff with safety devices with the objective of preventing or responding to sexual harassment and assault. The 2019 Hotel and Casino Employee Safety Act (S.B.75) in Illinois mandates a personal protection device for all employees working alone. New Jersey, Washington and California have already enacted similar laws requiring hotels to provide their employees with a wearable panic button/ safety device.

Banks are also looking for ways to protect employees as they too want the option to open with just one employee without the presence of an armed guard. They want to ensure the safety of employees who leave the inner perimeter of the building such as when servicing remote ATMs.

Mitigating Risk for Lone Workers

For many businesses struggling to stay afloat, employing a fulltime security guard is not sustainable and loss prevention experts know that guards carry their own risks because you now have an authority figure on site and maybe even a firearm involved.

There have been instances when a guard’s firearm caused an issue at a location. At the same time, relying solely on a video security system when action and intervention are required may not always be a viable solution.

The ultimate goal is to minimize lone worker risk and ensure employee morale and well-being. The solution has to be simple and robust enough that employees want to use it. It should require no installation, and no configuring by the end-user. It needs to be small, lightweight and unobtrusive until it is needed.

Lone Worker Monitoring Solutions

To address these challenges, there is a new breed of smart, wearable, and discreet personal protection devices on the market. These devices enable businesses to add another layer of protection for their associates when they are working alone. Wearable personal protection devices can be worn on a lanyard, belt, vest, jacket or pants and provide a cost-effective option for retailers and businesses who want to give their lone workers the protection they deserve.

Phone-based apps can also serve the purpose. However, they fall short as they require several steps to turn on, launch and use, and may interfere with phone calls and other device functions. Visibly fumbling with a personal cell phone can also cause certain situations to escalate prematurely If an assailant suspects the victim is calling for help or backup.

Personal safety monitoring devices have one major advantage. They are always-on, come with a single-push panic button that silently dispatches police and connects to a live monitoring service in just a few seconds.

A properly designed personal protection device delivers comprehensive situational awareness by sending time and location stamped GPS coordinates to authorities. It also opens a two-way audio communication channel with the employee and captures evidentiary grade photos to provide hard evidence for law enforcement. Because the units are cellular-based, there’s no limit to how far an employee can be from the business which means that it is perfect for curbside delivery and even home delivery use cases.

When the panic button is pressed, how the emergency is handled is just as important as the device itself. These personal protection devices can work in conjunction with a fully interactive video and two-way audio security system. When combined with a rapid-response 24/7 central command center staffed with security professionals, it becomes the most comprehensive and costeffective life-safety and asset protection system on the market.

An interactive monitoring solution further augments a personal protection device by offering remote security escorts, remote tours, video verified alarms, and even operations compliance services to organizations. With more camera eyes and ears on the ground, the opportunity to de-escalate situations further increases and deters employee shrink as well.

Keeping Lone Workers Company

Lone workers don’t have to be completely alone. Having an experienced security professional and law enforcement available at the touch of a button can boost morale and give lone workers the confidence to do their jobs without taking on unnecessary risk. Interface Security Systems recently launched a wearable personal protection monitoring solution in partnership with Risk- Band. This new service is directly integrated with our interactive 24/7 Central Command Centers. A single push of a button provides two-way voice communications, user profile data, near realtime images, and geolocation data to Interface’s trained security professionals who can immediately assess the situation, intervene and deploy the appropriate emergency response.

In a time when more attention needs to be placed on protecting assets and increasing safety measures for employees and customers, this new service enables businesses to make wearable safety devices an essential component of their emergency response strategy.

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Security Today.

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