Why Lone Workers are Vulnerable
What any business can do to protect staff from life threats at work
- By Brent Duncan
- Sep 04, 2020
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.
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/
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
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
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.
Brent Duncan is the chief revenue officer at Interface