“Don’t put profit before safety”

Says Nick Whiteley, CEO of HFX workforce management systems

“Don’t put profit before safety” says Nick Whiteley, CEO of HFX workforce management systems

For all businesses, having a profitable bottom line is the measure of success. Running a tight ship means managing operating costs – whether goods, premises or staff – to ensure there is a healthy profit margin. However, one of the lessons learned from successful businesses is that cutting costs should not mean cutting corners.

This is particularly true when reviewing staff budgets. Increasingly, staff well being has become an area where investment should be carefully planned and not automatically be reduced to save on outgoings when sales and revenue are down. This is even more important for lone workers. Often a hidden workforce, it is an area that is increasingly attracting more attention as a cost-effective way to deliver services outside of the business premises.

Lone workers at risk

However, lone working is also coming under scrutiny with new Health & Safety legislation. In recent years, the wellbeing of lone workers has been highlighted as an area of increased risk. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, commissioned by the Office for National Statistics, as many as 150 lone workers are either physically or verbally attacked every day. Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing noted that more than 6% of lone workers in the NHS had been physically attacked while at work.

With the numbers of lone workers increasing, whether in remote or hazardous sites or working late or out of hours, employers have a duty of care to ensure their safety. We have seen Time and Attendance (T&A) Systems come full circle, from a way to manage a large workforce on one or multiple sites, to become the ideal solution also to manage lone worker safety.

Managing the hidden workforce

Long established to keep track of who is in and who is out in fixed locations, today T&A systems offer a flexible way to track lone workers. Using the latest technology, from biometric access control (providing secure, personal identification) that can be ‘zoned’ to monitor late or out of hours, to log-in facilities that enable remote workers to clock in and out when working on a different or client site.

Cloud solutions make this possible – employers can manage ‘anytime, everywhere’ working, while being able to monitor the safety and wellbeing of lone workers. If a worker fails to clock in, a manager can be alerted, and co-workers can be quickly despatched to ‘fill in’. In the event of an accident or issue, managers know exactly the location of staff, either to send additional help or contact the appropriate emergency services, if required.

The added benefit of a T&A system is that everyone is treated equitably and transparently. Regardless of whether your staff are working on a client’s site, in your production plant, at head office or working remotely from home, all work hours are captured and tracked efficiently in one single system.

This transparency and accuracy of working hours, including tracking sickness and holidays, with no hidden late offenders or false overtime claims, has been proven to improve morale.

Happy staff means more productive staff, which in turns delivers a healthy bottom line.

With the right systems in place, you can ensure staff safety, well being and deliver a healthy return on investment. Profit shouldn’t, or need, to be at the expense of safety.

To find out more about HFX and our solutions please call 03333 44 7872, email sales@hfx.co.uk or visit http://www.hfx.co.uk

4 Steps to Protect your Lone Workers

‘Out of sight out of mind’ used to be the mantra for lone workers, but as the number increases in the UK, employers are realising that it’s important to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Nick Whiteley outlines four steps that employers can take to manage their remote workers.

According to Government statistics, working alone is a daily occurrence for almost 6 million people in the UK. Many of us may have employees that classify as lone workers – in fact, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identifies lone workers as those that work by themselves without close or direct supervision from others.

Lone workers can be working in any industry – from housing, including estate agents, housing associations, social & health, homeworkers, transport & logistics, construction and out of hours work, (security people or cleaners). This covers a wide range of sectors and regardless of which your company is in, anyone that is working alone is at risk. Failure to protect them could result in serious harm to them – and to the reputation of your company.

The risks of working alone

All employers have a duty of care to employees as lone workers, which means ensuring that they take responsibility to provide ways to ensure health and safety. There are other benefits that employers who take their responsibility seriously can gain – employees who feel looked after and valued by their employers are more likely to feel more engaged and productive.

Knowing where to start with lone worker safety can be tricky. At HFX we have over 40 years’ experience of workforce management, of which lone worker safety is a key element. We’ve put the following four steps as a guide;

 1. Identify what types of lone workers you employ.

While there are many industries that employ lone workers, we have identified three categories: public-facing, mobile and fixed-site. Once you have assessed your workforce against these types it makes it much easier to work out what sort of protection they require – whether it requires regular calling in, personal alarms or special equipment – or a combination of all three.

 2. Implement a lone working policy

Having a lone working policy means that you can provide a practical guide that employees can apply to their roles. It’s not a legal requirement, but an effective policy can help to promote a strong safety culture amongst your employees, keeping them safe and reducing the risk of potential legal issues.

Your lone working policy should be accessible and easy to understand, and you should ensure that workers are familiar with it. Issuing a copy to new employees who will work alone or to any contractors or temporary workers is a good way to start.

3. Carry out lone worker training

Training is vital to ensure understanding of the risks, consequences and practical elements to ensure lone worker safety. While providing a copy of the policy to new employees shows due diligence, often training is what makes the difference to understanding and engagement. Early training is a worthwhile investment and might include tips on actions and behaviour, for example; making sure someone knows where they are, being cautious, or sharing incidents for future learning.

4. Implement systems to manage your workforce

A Time and Attendance (T&A) system can provide real time visibility of the entire workforce’s attendance and location anytime, anywhere. It enables a company to record staff attendance by collecting data in a number of ways, so you always know who’s in and who’s out. They range from the traditional clock on the wall that uses cards, tokens or biometrics, to apps that employees can download to their mobile devices, online apps, even dialling in by telephone. ‘Zoning’ can also help, so you can see exactly who is working in which department or area of the building at any time – especially out of normal working hours.

The tracking facility within a T&A system also helps to protect lone workers from a health and safety aspect. It can alert managers if staff do not turn up in the event of an incident, to direct help quickly to the right location, whether that is extra staff or the emergency services.

It’s important for the morale of your team and the effectiveness of any department to ensure your lone workers are as much a part of the business as everyone else. As well as knowing where they are, and the hours that they are working, it’s vital to get them to check in regularly and meet up with colleagues so that they feel part of the team. Lone working should not mean working alone.

To find out more about HFX and our solutions please call 03333 44 7872,
email sales@hfx.co.uk or visit http://www.hfx.co.uk

Lone Workers – The Hidden Workforce

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There are over 6 million lone workers in the UK which represents about 20% of the UK workforce. They represent the “hidden” workforce that is under represented in an office they rarely frequent.

Lone Workers can be found in most – if not all – organisations across industry and performing a varied set of functions for the business.

The NHS is one such organisation with up to 100,000 (9% of its workforce) health care professionals who work on their own every day.

There are significant challenges for organisations with Lone Workers that are often underestimated by senior management and misunderstood by managers. This can often manifest itself by regarding Lone Workers as a nuisance or “heavy maintenance” because systems, processes and procedures are often designed around the majority (80%+) office-based staff.

Office based on-boarding processes and procedures are generally well understood; desk, chair, space, landline, laptop can be often allocated and deployed without issue, but Lone Workers often have differing requirements, and these can be interpreted as staff being “awkward” or a “nuisance” rather than simply having a different set of requirements to office-based workers. This can create resentment from both management and lone workers.

Maintaining a coherent company culture that often is cultivated informally within an office environment (the so called “water cooler” chats) are weakened through remote and lone workers and more proactive and organised interactions and events are required to ensure company values and culture are shared and embodied equally among staff. As important is the need to ensure positive relationships across the organisation.

Whilst hierarchical structures might appear to be the main mechanism in order to execute strategy, the reality is that at ground level, it is positive relationships which are responsible for getting the job done. Remote and Lone workers have less interaction and therefore the potential for less positive relationships exist and this can negatively affect productivity within and across teams.

The issue of duty of care also becomes more complicated when staff are not office-based and must be dealt with thoroughly. The law requires employers to consider carefully, and then deal with, any health and safety risks for people working alone. (Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974; the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999).

There is no magic process for this given that Lone Workers work in a variety of settings and environments, from working in a petrol station, working at home or in a care setting visiting a patient. Each scenario is different and requires a detailed analysis of risks along with a mitigation plan.

Lone Workers – by their very nature – are at greater risk than office-based workers and need additional support. As many as 150 lone workers are either physically or verbally attacked EVERY day (British Crime Survey) and the Royal College of Nursing noted that more than 6% of lone workers in the NHS had been physically attacked.

These statistics should provide a stark reminder to those responsible for risk assessment and mitigation that such risks should not be treated as a theoretical tick-box exercise but a reality that needs to be addressed.

Risk assessment and mitigation needs to include the environment that the lone worker is subject to, the tasks the lone worker is expected to carry out, the associated risks with both environment and activities as well as compiling a list of potential scenarios and how they could be addressed. This should include procedures, training, tools, technology and equipment that either prevent, mitigate or provide for the ability to escape harm and/or rapid response.

The very nature of lone working means that neither colleagues or management are “by their side” to help advise, assist, support the lone worker in case of an adverse event.

Below (non exhaustive) list of areas an organisation should consider;

Conflict Management Training:

The ability to de-escalate as situation before it becomes physical/violent.

Real-Time Risk Assessment and Awareness training:

There are many situations that cannot be foreseen or turned into a process/procedure so the ability for the lone worker to make this assessment and take appropriate action is critical when unable to contact their manager.

The provision of protective equipment and medical kit:

Where appropriate and specific to their task these can be essential.

Technology, Mobile Tracking and alerting:

There are solutions that enable Lone Workers to be – by consent – tracked during their working time so that management can exercise their duty of care. Some systems also have a panic button on the mobile device that can alert staff and/or alert staff when they have not received a GPS position after a certain amount of time or indeed haven’t changed position after a set amount of time.

Culture and Relationships:

It is important for the organisation to create opportunities to build relationships with both office-based and lone worker staffing groups recognising that this doesn’t happen naturally. Examples of this could be company days, office days, or events held off-site and bring staff together in a neutral environment. This also creates opportunities to reinforce company culture and values within and between teams.

Part of this is not just recognising there are different staffing groups but also explaining these differences and communicating the value each bring to the organisation. The value of doing this should not be underestimated or disregarded as a “warm and fuzzy” initiative but key to ensuring that part of your workforce isn’t unseen and undervalued.

In conclusion, whilst lone workers are rarely seen in the office, it is imperative that they do not become your “Hidden” workforce. Their voice, their views, their requirements must be heard in equal proportion to the workers you meet every day. Only by ensuring they are fully integrated, engaged and considered will you be able to ensure not just their needs and safety are met but also maintain and improve productivity levels across the whole of the organisation.

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