Suzy Lamplugh Trust – Creating A Society Where People Feel Safer

2020 has created an unprecedented set of challenges for both businesses and individuals. Amid the upheaval that Covid-19 has created, millions of people are now working in more isolated circumstances, from the wave of new home workers to the thousands of workers forced to operate in the field or work with members of the public without colleagues close by, including telecom engineers and care assistants.

Established in 1986 in response to incredibly difficult circumstances, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust is an organisation that has tirelessly campaigned to reduce the risk of violence and aggression through education and support, working towards a safer society for all.

It’s an organisation that’s very much part of the lone working community, having been founded as a result of the disappearance of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh who went alone to show a property to a prospective buyer. Unfortunately, she was never seen again after this appointment.

Female estate agent showing two men around a property

Factors such as an increase in the number of gig workers and changing working practices and schedules brought about by Covid measures have prompted a sharp rise in the number of lone workers – a group identified as particularly vulnerable by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). So much so that they have provided specific guidance for employers to ensure lone workers are appropriately considered and protected.

While different kinds of lone workers face their own unique set of dangers, having a clear understanding of potential risks, options for dealing with those risks and a means of summoning help all contribute to making the working environment safer.

The importance of training

The Trust is embedded within the lone working industry and continues to deliver vital training for businesses seeking to better understand the risks that their lone workers might face and the best ways to support them.

Practical training is also provided for individuals themselves that work alone – a proportion of the workforce that continues to grow as technology reduces the need for teams of people to complete tasks. In fact, the Trust has worked with over 1,000 organisations, training over 100,000 delegates in personal safety.

Trainer standing up leading a training session

The right techniques can make a vital difference to supporting those working alone, and regular training helps ensure that workers are fully equipped to deal with challenging scenarios. Training is one of the eight key points that employers must fulfil in order to be compliant with Suzy’s Charter For Workplace Safety – an initiative from the Trust to help organisations implement excellent personal safety policies and protocols.

Regular practice through training can have a big impact should a worker encounter a dangerous situation. From using de-escalation techniques within a safe setting to help manage potentially violent situations, to learning how to perform dynamic risk assessments that help a person to quickly spot potential risks in new environments and take mitigating actions, training is a vital element of keeping employees safe at work.

In addition, a number of helplines and online support resources exist, supporting people that perhaps aren’t part of a business, such as freelancers, contractors and gig workers. Online personal safety training courses can be an important source of information and advice for those that might be self-employed and unable to access more formal support from work.

Instilling safer working practices

Equally important are processes and procedures that encourage regular communication within teams. The HSE guidance requires that lone workers are ‘properly trained, monitored and supervised’, and also that employers ‘keep in touch with them and respond to any incident’. Both elements of this guidance suggest that many of the risks of lone working may be mitigated through better communication.

Buddying systems, check-in points and shared schedules all help workers to support one another, and raise an alert if a colleague isn’t where they are expected to be at a given time. Today’s employers are fortunate to have access to a wide range of communications technology to easily facilitate vital lines of communication between a lone worker and their colleagues.

A standard mobile phone offers both text and call methods of communication. However, for more advanced options, lone worker service providers have their own smartphone apps and supply dedicated personal safety devices with innovative features such as GPS tracking, roaming sims and fall detection to ensure the safety of lone workers.

Lone worker talking on the phone checking in

Points 6 and 7 of Suzy’s Workplace Charter specifically mention the need for employees to be able to raise an alarm in an emergency, whether that’s through having a duress code, panic alarm or a lone worker device.

Working from home

April 2020 saw the number of people working from home soar to 15.2 million, and while some people have returned to their work premises, for many it has now become the norm – in fact an Institute of Directors (IoD) report, released in October this year, found that 74% of businesses intend to retain working from home practices long-term.

Home workers are considered lone workers by definition of the HSE guidance, and as such must be addressed by employers. Whether that means ensuring regular, personal contact with employees to maintain a sense of belonging and mitigate against a sense of isolation, or establishing a working from home policy that promotes a healthy work/life balance, the needs of home workers are different and risk assessments are just as important for those at home as in other settings.

Live Life Safe

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust’s strapline is an important motto for the lone worker safety community and one that we are all passionate about. It’s encouraging to see the progress that has been made in protecting employees over the past three decades thanks to the work undertaken and driven by the Trust.

Although improvements have been made, workplace fatalities, injuries and ill-health are still prevalent and more can be done to protect people simply doing their job. Employee safety must be at the heart of every organisation – not just because it’s an employer’s obligation, but because protecting our colleagues, friends and families is simply the right thing to do.

For more information on protecting your lone workers and mitigating risks in your workplace, book some time with one of our personal safety experts today.