Is it Enough to Provide a Lone Worker with a Mobile Phone?

It’s a good question. Can businesses providing lone working employees with just a mobile phone be compliant with their Duty of Care? Well… it depends.

The past couple of years have seen changes to health and safety legislation with regards to lone workers. Companies and their directors can be prosecuted under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act as well as the recent introduction of the HSE’s Fee for Intervention – a cost recovery scheme making organisations liable for HSE-related costs for accident investigation, inspection and enforcement actions.

In the worst case scenario of a lone worker suffering injury or even death without having appropriate risk-reduction measures in place, it’s highly likely that their employers will face prosecution, leading to crippling costs, fines and a tarnishing of reputations.

Measures are in place to help mitigate risk. Solutions that are accredited to BS 8484 – the standard for lone worker device services, are designed to reduce any chance of corporate liability in the event of a life-threatening incident (as well as the main priority of ensuring staff are kept safe).

To answer the original question… yes and no.

With the increasing popularity of Smartphones, applications are available to enable workers to raise the alarm at the touch of a button – thus transforming their mobile into a fully-functioning personal alarm. Applications that link to a 24/7 alarm receiving centre, are GPS enabled and can be activated with a one-button press (overriding the key lock) can be accredited to BS 8484 (It’s worth noting at this point that due to the iPhone’s design, it can never be BS 8484 approved). If an employee is issued a smartphone with a BS 8484 approved application, then it’s fair to say that your organisation is helping to fulfil their Duty of Care to their employee.

However, just by issuing a standard phone (or smartphone without a BS 8484 app) is treading on dangerous ground. Without the approval of BS 8484, organisations face the risk of not complying with current lone worker legislation.

For instance, is it enough to expect the lone worker to make a phone call to the emergency services, line manager or other contact if they find themselves in a hostile, dangerous or threatening situation? The time it takes to unlock the keypad, make the call and explain the situation (including their location) is far too long, especially when the user is potentially under extreme pressure or in distress. And what if an incident occurs in unsociable hours? With a BS 8484 accredited solution, all the user needs to do is press one button. Their location and information will be conveyed automatically to operators at the alarm receiving centre. From there, the situation is promptly and calmly dealt with.

Whilst providing your employees with a BS 8484 approved solution may not cover every contingency, it goes much further in preventing your business from succumbing to hefty legislative fines. It may be tempting to opt for the most basic method of protection, but for the sake of a few pounds a month, it’s our belief that it’s definitely worth having the extra safeguards in place.