Patrick Dealtry

Dec 172015

Should Lone Worker protection fit into the corporate structure?  Or should it stand alone?

Does anything in an organisation stand alone?  In practice everything is connected one way or another.  Lone Worker would sit comfortably under the overall heading of the employer’s safety & security strategy where its provisions would work best when incorporated into everyday working practice.

Within this strategy a Lone Worker Policy sets out the intentions of the principal officers of an organisation in showing how they expect to manage lone working staff and keep them safe.

This is good governance and an important means of communicating their intentions to the workforce.  Describing the systems and procedures that will monitor its requirements and effectiveness, will make sure everyone in the business knows what is expected of them; managers and managed alike.

The ongoing processes of risk identification, assessment and mitigation, training, continuous improvement, and co-operation between all levels of management and staff reflect good practices that will help keep lone workers free from harm.

This will have financial and HR benefits and protect the organisation’s reputation

And keep it out of the courts.

Nov 292015

There are some changes to British Standards which affect Lone Worker monitoring.

Changes involve the following standards:

  1. BS5979:2007. Remote centres receiving signals from fire and security systems. Code of practice.
  2. BS8591:2014. Remote centres receiving signals from alarm systems. Code of practice
  3. EN 50518-3:2011. Monitoring and alarm receiving centre. Procedures and requirements for operation

The new European standard EN 50518 is one of a new series of standards for alarm monitoring which are anticipated to form the benchmark for European ARC’s moving forward – particularly in terms of how the Police respond to relevant alarms.

EN50518 applies only to ARCs monitoring intruder and hold-up alarms.  However, an EU standard takes precedence over UK standards and therefore UK ARCs have to adhere to it rather than BS5979 as regards these two alarm types.

As a result BS5979 has been withdrawn and superseded.  It has been replaced by an interim UK standard called BS8591 which does not refer to intruder and hold-up alarms but does cover the various alarms not covered by EN50518, i.e. fire, social, CCTV, lone worker devices and vehicle tracking.   Therefore the two, 50518 and 8591 run in parallel.

Although BS5979 has been withdrawn and superseded by BS8591 it still remains in force for existing ARCs.   Any future ARCs will have to meet BS8591 and 50518.

There is no intention to withdraw the URN support from BS5979 ARCs for Lone Workers.

Which all shows how exciting is the world of standards!

Nov 102014

How can you as an employer practically protect your Lone Workers when it is patently obvious that you cannot do so in any conventional sense?

Since you cannot be with them in an emergency, (when they would not then be Lone Workers) you must go as far as you can in helping them to help themselves.

Consider Protection as consisting of two components; Prevention and Response.  Prevention is achieved by embedding ways in which employees avoid difficult situations in the first place.  Response is there when protection fails.  The two are as close to Protection as is possible without sending them out with the SAS – when they would cease to be Lone Workers anyway.

While Prevention may reduce the number of occasions where a Lone Worker will get into a situation which will result in their harm, ‘reduce’ is not the same as ‘eliminate’, so there will always be a need for Response Services.

Response with Prevention in isolation are still insufficient; adding Training and Management will result in a culture of safe working, in other words – Protection.


Prevention starts with a well thought out policy leading to sensible procedures which are developed in consultation with the lone working employees and their managers.


Sooner or later Prevention will fail and an employee will need a Response; and it must be fast and effective.

This where a sensible organisation will choose a service based on the British Standard for Lone Worker response – BS8484 – and for added value also a BSIA member.


Training binds Prevention and Response together.  Training should cover:

  • Application of policies and procedures
  • How to make best use of Lone Worker Response devices
  • Awareness and how to avoid potentially dangerous situations
  • How to manage dangerous situations
  • The role of personal responsibility for personal safety


Good management has to balance the needs of the organisation against the needs of the individual.   Management must protect the organisation in law with its reputation and effectiveness intact, while protecting the individual employees out on their own in the community, other workplaces or in transit between them.

A manager with responsibility for protecting Lone Workers needs to consider many factors; among them:

  • How best to achieve protection for both the organisation and Lone Workers  without jeopardising the work they are employed to do?
  • What can be done in-house and what can be outsourced?
  • How will initial and follow-up training be delivered? In-house or outsourced?
  • How will Lone Workers be motivated to always follow the procedures laid down for them, including use of Lone Worker Response services?
  • What reports will help manage the contract and how will they be delivered?
  • Regular reviews with Lone Workers

Prevention & Response without Training and Management is like a car without a driver – looks fine in the car park but not much good when you want to go anywhere serious.

Prevention + Response + Training + Management = Protection

Jan 162014

It can seem odd that it is accepted practice for organisations to make a big investment in the security of employees inside their buildings whilst at the same time failing to make a substantial investment in general health and safety protection for their employees.

What is the difference?

In security terms, employee protection is just one of a company’s many assets that need to be protected.

On the other hand, health and safety is totally focused on individuals in their environment and the harm that can come to them.

Both are intended to protect the organisation as well as the individual, often including protecting the individual themselves from doing something that will make the organisation vulnerable. This dichotomy is difficult as protecting the individual and the organisation are not necessarily the same thing.

Perhaps this difficulty can be best summarised in the famous quote from Donald Rumsfeld (which although not, could easily have been aimed at risk assessors)

“There are known knowns; there are things that we know we know.

There are known unknowns ; that is to say that there are things that we know we don’t know.

But there are also unknown unknowns- there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

Where both health and safety and security provisions do have something in common is the general focus they often have on the employee within the confines of a building, despite the reality that protection outside of a building is a different process.  It could be said that this focus comes from the fact that there are more of Rumsfeld’s ‘knowns’ when inside a building, whereas protection for the ‘unknowns’ that can exist outside are far more difficult to account for.

Organisations have a responsibility to protect their assets: equipment, cash, stock, information systems, products and so on. Buildings are a convenient framework to contain and protect these assets, explaining the previously mentioned indoor focus. What is often missed however are the intangible company assets such as reputation that need to be considered.

In order to ensure focus on furthering the purpose of an organisation, both tangible and intangible assets need to be fully considered.

Security vs Health and Safety

To return the problem of security vs health and safety, the security function has to concentrate on asset protection using the investment in hardware, for example CCTV or access controlled entrances.

Health and safety provision exists for the protection of the workers themselves. People are employed due to their skills and knowledge, but also have minds of their own that they tend to use, and not always predictably. Here lies the key concern for health and safety, risk and unpredictability are not happy bedfellows.

This unpredictability is particularly obvious when employees leave the security of their work building when they become vulnerable to violence, abuse, accidents, illness and injury. All the security paraphernalia available to them within the work environment now becomes useless in looking after them. At this point employees, (despite being the most important part of an organisation) have become their most vulnerable asset.

What can easily be overlooked is the fact that the employees are just as much the responsibility of their organisation as they were when they were in their place of work, despite the discrepancy in the amount of security cover they receive in each location.

People as assets

How often do we hear senior management or a CEO state that ‘My people are my biggest asset?’  So why do more organisations not look after them when they are at their most vulnerable?

A CCTV system will cost several thousand pounds and come with a warranty and a service contract.  There is no such warranty or service contract on an employee. Instead if an employee (to use a crude analogy) ‘breaks’ then the process of mending or replacing them comes at a cost to the organisation rather than a contractor, whether that be in recruitment, morale or even legal costs.

Also unlike CCTV, employees have a voice and are increasingly likely to use their voice to show employers they are not satisfied with the safety provisions they are given. Employees will accept that their job may include an element of danger but they will not accept being inadequately protected when faced with a real life situation that could lead to harm.

Employees will react much more positively if their concerns for their safety are taken seriously and measures put in place to reassure them. If they are not there is real potential for staff to simply find another job where they are better protected, or simply drop their productivity to avoid difficult situations.

Between two factors

Part of the problem is that that the responsibility for health and safety often falls between the two areas of security and health and safety, and exhibitions are a case in point.

At any security exhibition you will see rows and rows of things designed to protect buildings- and by extension any people that are within them.

At any health and safety exhibition the focus is very much the same, lots of things to protect employees inside buildings but very little to protect them when they are outside and more vulnerable.

With many buildings being something of fortress, organisations should have the opportunity to move onto what is now (in our predominately service economy) the most vulnerable part of a company’s operations- their people. 

Signs of change

Signs of change are however on the horizon. Lone worker safety is one of the fastest growing markets in the industry. In 2012 it featured for the first time at IFSEC and again in 2013, (albeit in a less than obvious corner!), however for 2014, the lobe worker stage has forsaken security altogether and moved to the Safety and Health exhibition.

Companies that provide lone worker services are entrepreneurial, innovative and taking business risk by doing something which saves lives and prevents serious injury. Their services protect employees from legislation and litigation while giving ‘external’ staff greater confidence as they go about their employer’s daily business.

Corporate Manslaughter Act

Many would say that the Corporate Manslaughter Act is a barely relevant piece of legislation because only 4 prosecutions have been made to date. As the following statistics illustrate however, those that underestimate the potential effectiveness of the act will be very unwise:

  • Current investigations: 56
  • Increase in investigations over the past year: 40%
  • Organisations charged in the first 4 months of 2013: 4

(Pinsent Mason, April 2013)

Questions for the future

While the Lone Worker market has grown quickly over the last few years, there are still far too many organisations resisting taking the relatively simple and inexpensive steps required to protect their lone workers.

Why is this? Perhaps one reason is that as such a new market, Lone Worker protection has not directly placed itself as either a safety or a security service.

The best answer to this would seem to be for the Lone Worker protection to stand on its own as market in its own right and not as a part of anyone else’s. The third annual Lone Worker conference held at London’s Olympia in November 2013 illustrated how the market has gone from strength to strength and its potential for the future. Who knows maybe one day it will perhaps replace the Safety and Health Conference and IFSEC?

Next time you think about investing in CCTV, why not focus on the people instead?

Mar 162013

Just in case anyone doubts the effect of the Act, the following update should remind them that it is to be taken seriously.


The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.

Penalties include unlimited fines.


Became law; April 2008

Successful prosecutions to date: 3

Cases opened by CPS:

  • 2009: 7
  • 2010: 26
  • 2011: 45
  • 2012: 63

Recent charges: 4 companies charged by the CPS in the last 4 months.

Current investigations: 56

Extract from Statement by Law Firm Pinsent Masons

Describing the three convictions as “just the tip of an iceberg”, Joyston-Bechal warned high-risk industries and companies that the current lack of convictions for corporate manslaughter is no reason for complacency.

“A low number of convictions could lead businesses to think corporate manslaughter is an option little-used by prosecutors,” he remarked. “However, corporate manslaughter cases are very complex and can take a long time to come to trial. We can now see from these figures that there is a rapidly growing number of cases in the pipeline.”

The lawyer pointed out that in most large companies, directors and senior managers will be fairly well-insulated from the operational decisions that might have gone wrong and caused a fatality. However, he warned that “the weakest link in the present economic climate will be where their senior people have dictated a downsizing, or cost-cutting programme in cases where they knew, or ought to have known, that the cuts would adversely impact safety”.

He concluded: “This is an important message for senior people with positions of responsibility, in order to protect themselves and their organisations from the most serious prosecutions arising from fatalities.”

Feb 162013

First published on BSIA web site in February 2013.

This is both a first and a last; the first Lone Worker blog for the BSIA and the last blog before the Lone Worker Group becomes a fully-fledged Section in its own right.

This is a good thing; a New Year means new beginnings and it reflects a time at which the Lone Worker market is coming of age.

So first let me look backward and then forward.  10 years ago there was no such thing as a Lone Worker market.  Those of us in at the start had to create it from scratch – and it was hard work.  It needed a belief and a good dash of optimism as we lurched forward.  There were a number of significant milestones;

  • creation of a British Standard at an early stage which gave structure, discipline and credibility
  • appreciation by Lone Worker suppliers that this was about service not technology
  • acceptance by ACPO that Lone Worker devices did not result in huge numbers of false alarms and were not a problem for their control rooms and response services
  • the impact of the very large NHS contract
  • first prosecution under the new Corporate Manslaughter Act – which was for a Lone Worker
  • the start of the BSIA Lone Worker group
  • technical advances resulting in more capable and practical devices
  • advent of downloadable apps for smartphones
  • entry into the market of large companies like G4S, Mitie and Securitas
  • expansion into Lone Worker monitoring by an increasing numbers of ARCs.

Perhaps this period from 2003 to 2012 is best described as a ‘period of education’ for both suppliers and customers; suppliers who discovered what customers really wanted and customers who understand that paying attention to the needs of their Lone Workers really is important for their businesses.

So much for the past, what of the future?  I believe the ‘period of education’ will turn into a ‘period of expansion’.   There are probably about 140,000 Lone Worker devices in use at present and many more low risk employees using low level non-standard services.

I believe the next 12 months will see:

  • the number of devices double – despite difficult trading conditions
  • moves into international markets
  • the introduction of more smartphone apps
  • entry into the Lone Worker market of established companies already supplying other location based services such as asset and vehicle tracking
  • development of the BSIA Lone Worker Section leading to increasing differentiation between companies in the Section and those outside it
  • development of the consumer market
  • greater focus on training in all aspects of personal safety

Making forecast for the following year is a bit of a mugs game.  Fortunately if a week is a long time in politics, then a year in the security industry is long enough for most to forget what happened 12 months ago.

We shall see.

Dec 312011

BS8484 was deliberately produced early on in the development of the Lone Worker market with the intention of imposing controls on false alarm rates from an early stage.

While this has been shown to be a real benefit, with a very low rate of false alarms and therefore a high level of police support, it can expose other problems which were not foreseen with little market experience.  One of these is the name ‘Lone Worker’.

While the name did not get a mention in Health & Safety legislation it is there that we find its roots.   The HSE were using the term at an early stage and it served its purpose well by highlighting the vulnerability of a specific employment group which signalled the birth of the Lone Worker market.

The Police were clearly going to be a most significant element in the market, as the primary response service, and they liked the name for two reasons:

  1. Restricting it to employees only gave a degree of built-in control against false alarms because;
    1. There was a mechanism to control bad practice and therefore reduce false alarms
    2. Services would only be purchased and used in response to a specific threat identified through a formal risk assessment process
    3. There would be training – both on using the device/service and on the avoidance and management of potentially dangerous situations
  2. The term Lone Worker effectively excludes ‘consumers’ who are by definition beyond organisational control and who would probably purchase such devices and services for more general and unspecified risk to elderly relatives and young children or teenagers.  The fear was that without the discipline of the corporate environment, including training and control over their use, many more false alarms would be created.

However, while the term has been instrumental in mobilising the market it also confuses many who are not familiar with it.  It does not immediately conjure up an image of many of those vulnerable people to whom it in fact applies.  To the initiated it implies someone whose job is essentially solitary and risky because there are no other people around them; perhaps a distant figure toiling in the field vulnerable to accident or sudden illness.  Not many organisations have such people so why should they be interested?

While this remains a possible use the most likely situations are those where there is a threat because they are not alone; that there are one or more others present who could represent a threat to them.   The term ‘Lone’ therefore has come to mean someone who is not actually alone but is ‘Lone’ in the sense of having no co-workers to come to their immediate aid if required.

Also, as various organisations have discovered the flexibility of such services and how they could be applied to all sorts of people and situations, so the term Lone Worker has become further muddled.

For example several police forces that have responsibility for the protection of high risk domestic violence victims use Lone Worker services to allow them to call for help if they need to.  By no stretch of the imagination can such people be described as Lone Workers yet Lone Worker services have, in such circumstances, saved lives, saved serious injury and put violent offenders behind bars.   While they are not Lone
Workers these are certainly ‘vulnerable people’ and perhaps this would be a more accurate description?

They are also clearly at risk and maybe this would be an even better description – ‘People at Risk’?  It has the clear advantage of relating to risk which would perhaps focus people on that key word as an essential precursor to buying.

Words with imprecise meanings create false images in people’s minds.   It is quite possible that the images conjured up by the term ‘Lone Worker’ in the minds of those hearing it for the first time, without the benefit of a full explanation, are something of
a turn-off.

It is also quite possible, even probable, that this lack of precision has contributed to confusion and consequent slow development in the market.

If this is so it will, more importantly, have failed to reduce vulnerability for some ‘People at Risk’.

Do we need to think again about the name?

Nov 012011

This story is about the Information Commissioner’s findings regarding people’s concerns about the security of their personal data.

This concern is reflected and addressed in the revised version of BS8484:2011.

Clause 4.6 of the standard makes a point of data security and what the supplier company must do.  This includes the following:

  • Data must be held in a BS5979 ARC or in a data centre environment meeting the requirements specified in BS ISO/IEC 27001.
  • All personnel handling data must be security screened in accordance with BS 7858
  • The company is required to have a documented data handling policy available for the customer
  • The policy should apply to all directly employed personnel or subcontractor employed personnel who have access to lone workers’ personal data that uniquely identifies individuals.

Read the full story at the following link: Top story from The ICO Oct 2011