Planning Your Lone Worker Safety Project: Advice from Yorkshire Water

Yorkshire WaterPersonal safety devices lie central to many successful lone worker safety systems. But, more often than not, too much emphasis is placed on the technology used – rather than the specific needs of lone workers.

In 2016, we supported Yorkshire Water’s lone worker safety initiative, implementing thousands of lone worker devices. Environmental lead advisor, Dr Matt Hill, led the project, which was scoped-out meticulously. His thorough planning ensured that the right technology was used, providing optimal protection for his lone working colleagues.

Here are five tips from Matt to consider when planning your own lone worker safety project…

Learn from Your Mistakes

Prior to our Peoplesafe lone worker devices, we used a telephone-based system with mixed results. Employees didn’t engage with the system as much as we liked and usage levels were a concern.

A ‘one size fits all’ solution just didn’t work for us. Recognising that our new solution had to account for the diverse needs of our lone workers was a crucial starting point for our project.

Get Buy-In from the Start

Given the potential cost of this safety initiative, the benefits had to be clearly conveyed. It was clear that this wasn’t a one-man job.

We created a team, the ‘lone worker steering group’, which comprised of project sponsors, business analysts, health and safety advisors and representatives of different groups of lone workers across the company. Together, we canvassed directors, senior managers and lone workers across the business to raise the project’s profile and gather feedback.

Once the project had gained some traction, Peoplesafe facilitated some manager briefing sessions to further educate our colleagues on benefits to the business.

Categorise Your Lone Workers by Risk

The Peoplesafe team split lone working roles into three distinct categories – mobile, fixed-site and public-facing. We used this as a template to create our own system, more closely aligned with the job roles within Yorkshire Water:

a.) Low Risk – Office-Based: Mainly office-based, but may occasionally travel alone for work, work from home and/or spend time alone in the office.

b.) High Risk – Public-Facing: Those who may work in environments where they meet and face the general public on in various locations such as people’s homes.

c.) High Risk – Zoned Areas: Those who work in areas requiring an intrinsically safe system and could be at risk from various elements including public, their environment and their task.

d.) High Risk – Remote Areas: Those who work often work out of mobile network coverage and could be at risk from various elements including public, their environment and their task.

These categories were used as part of our pre-roll-out survey. They were used to help staff identify their level of potential risk and also the most suitable lone worker device(s). For example, ‘category c’ lone workers typically received the intrinsically safe Twig Atex devices as part of their PPE, whilst ‘category b’ were provided with a more discreet solution.

Research. Research. Research.

Over a two-month period, we used qualitative and quantitative research methods to understand our lone working safety requirements in more depth.

Qualitative Research: “A Day in the Life”

We engaged with various team members across a range of lone working roles. Tanker Drivers, Field Technicians, Field Engineers and Customer Service Representatives were all shadowed to see the risks and challenges they faced first-hand.

“A Day in the Life” follow-up reports highlighted key findings, including any personal safety training and PPE requirements. We also tested a range of lone worker devices at different Yorkshire Water sites. This was beneficial to gain user feedback and collate mobile network coverage data.

Quantitative Research: Staff Surveys

All management were surveyed prior to rolling-out our new system. This helped us to gather large amounts of data on risk profiles, frequency of lone working tasks and mobile network coverage.

Following the roll-out, we surveyed managers and their lone workers to gather feedback and identify any further training needs.

Find a Partner, Not a Supplier

Lone working remains a niche area within health and safety. It’s therefore important to leverage from the expertise of your lone worker service provider.

Prior to our partnership with Peoplesafe, we had a lone worker system that was fragmented and inconsistent across different areas of the business. With their continued support, we have therefore, standardised our lone worker induction process, lone working policy, usage plans, lone worker training and PPE.