NSCA Foundation

In the field: mobility is vital

SOTI Inc. Australia

Tuesday, 31 March, 2020



In the field: mobility is vital

Field service industries such as mining, construction, agriculture, utilities and telecommunications need the right technology measures in place to protect their workers. MICHAEL DYSON explains how an ‘integrated mobility strategy’ can help businesses and managers optimise safety for field workers.

Field services undoubtedly benefit from the advancement of technology, particularly mobile technology. As an industry, field services often adopts new technology quicker than others. It is important, however, that field service organisations think about the management and security of new technology as it is onboarded, not just to keep business data secure, but also to ensure the safety of their field workers when they are out on the road and reliant on mobile devices.

The manual management of mobile devices deployed by businesses reliant on field workers, or even relying on built-in management solutions, is not enough to ensure mobility remains integrated, secure, cost-effective and optimised to deliver the best performance, as well as worker safety in the field. Businesses need a single integrated mobility strategy to manage their mobile device ecosystem as simply as possible, by having real-time visibility and control of every single endpoint from deployment to management, and monitoring to maintenance, which will keep workers working.

Responsibilities

Australian organisations must comply with work health and safety (WHS) laws to ensure the safety of their employees. Under WHS laws a “person conducting a business or undertaking” has a duty to exercise due diligence for the safety of their staff/contractors in or around a workplace. While at times it can be difficult for businesses to ensure the safety of personnel in a static environment, workplaces in the field, which have vehicles or are remote, present a much greater challenge.

Whether trying to ensure regular communication with a remote worker for wellbeing checks, looking to gain an understanding of the worker’s location and potential risk exposure, or maintaining safe work practices in and around vehicles, management needs all the help it can get in monitoring these safety issues. Safe Work Australia has also identified some field work industries (such as construction and agriculture) as national priorities to reduce the number and rate of fatalities and serious claims. It is important that Australian businesses, especially those in field service industries such as mining, construction, agriculture, utilities and telecommunications, have the right safety measures in place to protect their workers while out in the field.

Integrated mobility strategy

Field workers who spend a significant amount of their workday driving can be at more risk of road accidents or even fatalities, especially delivery drivers who need to meet strict delivery key performance indicators. Remote workers depend on mobile devices to do their jobs and communicate with base operations, so it is crucial to support business-critical mobility at all times, as well as to use technology to help improve the safety of field workers. A safe work environment can be supported by an integrated mobility strategy. Managers should be able to remotely fix devices, restrict app access when a vehicle is in motion, optimise device connectivity and initiate easy updates. At the same time, managers should be able to deploy geo-fences to block out non-critical applications and prevent disruptions to field workers.

Field service managers and dispatchers need to know where their field workers are and the status of each call that is scheduled or completed. Knowing where the worker is enables quick rescheduling or a high priority diversion. In addition, global positioning system (GPS) functionality provides field workers with an optimised travel route and call schedule. Real-time location information warns them about traffic hazards and bad road conditions. Implementing solutions that allow businesses to lock down devices or applications based on vehicle speed can help reduce risks to organisations and field workers by enabling lockdown/kiosk mode, which limits the functionality of mobile devices on the road.

The physical safety of field workers is paramount, yet another key consideration for managers and businesses is that workers are accessing business-critical technology and data in a secure way. Businesses need to feel comfortable that their workers are accessing these tools securely and that there is no risk of compromising data. Investing in a business-critical solution that allows organisations to create integrated mobility management solutions securely, by providing centralised user authentication, single sign-on and role management functionality, will enable businesses to ensure the security of data being accessed by field workers.

Worker safety, whether in an office or out in the field, should be a top priority for all Australian businesses. An integrated mobility strategy can help keep field workers, who often work alone or in hazardous areas, safe. Businesses need to be able to ensure their field workers can access data, technology and support from anywhere, to help ensure their safety at work. The use of integrated mobile solutions to provide safety information and report on any incidents will also enable businesses to make any necessary improvements quickly.

Michael Dyson is Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand at SOTI.

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Case study

A major utilities service provider in the United Kingdom that specialises in the ongoing maintenance of road, utility, rail and waterways networks and public buildings, as well as household waste collection, relies on its large and disparate mobile field-force. The company recently rolled out an integrated mobility strategy to simplify mobile device configuration, speed up deployment of devices and allow for quick and easy management and support of devices. With an integrated mobility strategy, the company now has full centralised visibility and control of all company mobile devices out in the field.

This allows the company to track the location of all field workers and monitor device status, and enables the remote control of any device at a click. As a result, the company is now positioned to monitor and put processes in place to ensure the safety of its increasing number of workers in the field. Location services mean all field workers are accounted for and any safety risks at particular locations can be communicated and monitored. GPS tracking allows the company to guide field workers on the best route to take when travelling by road, warn them about any traffic issues or monitor if their workers are involved in any traffic incidents.

Remote control of devices helps the company to only allow workers access to applications that are necessary to their work, or to restrict device access while field workers are operating vehicles or equipment. On the issue of worker safety, the company no longer experiences lengthy device downtime which may lead to field workers’ locations being unmonitored and unaccounted for, because troubleshooting and resolution of device issues can now be performed remotely, without the device having to be sent back to head office.

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Top image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/PointImages

NSCA Foundation is a member based, non-profit organisation working together with members to improve workplace health and safety throughout Australia. For more information and membership details click here
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