NSCA Foundation

Not alone: portable duress solutions for lone workers

SafeTCard Australia Pty Ltd

Tuesday, 11 February, 2020



Not alone: portable duress solutions for lone workers

Lone workers face many risks, both social and environmental. DEAN HOULT outlines some benefits of portable duress solutions for lone workforces.

Federal law passed in 2008 establishes a requirement for companies to ensure adequate safety measures are made available to all staff that have an ‘at risk’ profile. Two main forms of risk to consider are social risk and environmental risk. Social risk affects staff that engage with the general public. Examples include: metro train staff dealing with an aggressive/intoxicated public; emergency medical technician (EMT)/ambulance staff being attacked when out on a call; school staff dealing with regular abuse and physical altercations from students and parents; hospital in the home (HITH) staff not knowing what to expect in-home; and real estate agents dealing with aggravated renters.

Environmental risk is the second main form of risk, and affects staff on the job. Example situations and risks include: incapacitation due to heat; all remote, out-of-sight work in metro or isolated locations; and machinery shut-off issues. As an example: property managers inspecting tenanted or vacant properties are a lone workforce, and they face unsafe situations when undertaking field duties. Unsafe scenarios include: being locked in a bathroom, being bitten by a snake at a vacant property, entering a vacant property containing squatters and entering a property with firearms present. In the past, such workers have not had access to adequate safety solutions to address these situations — and even two-man tasks do not prevent accidents.

Therefore, emergency monitoring — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — is a requirement for any lone worker solution. Programming a device to call friends and family is a waste of time in a critical emergency, and safety devices have little value if they are not monitored by full-time, trained staff. This includes staff that are trained to handle a range of emergency situations, ranging from a ‘man down’ issue, to an ability to listen and offer advice in a domestic violence situation, to knowing when to engage an emergency service. This level of responsiveness comes with an Australian Security Industry Association Ltd (ASIAL) certified, Grade A1 monitoring station.

When little behavioural change is required to readily incorporate new practices into existing tools and work clothing, portable duress solutions offer many advantages. Portable duress solutions provide a means for lone workers to get assistance while in the field, including two-way communication. Key features to look for include: a discreet form factor device that looks like an ID to minimise any escalation in a confrontation, an instant red alert button, global positioning system (GPS), audio calls, voice recording to capture verbal abuse, amber alert for emergency services, automatic man down alarm and instant short message service (SMS) for communication.

These features ensure workers can effectively undertake risk mitigation at every point of their start-to-end journey, including before they leave the office and until after they return. And in the unlikely event that a situation becomes high risk, workers with this technology can activate an alarm that immediately opens a direct line of communication to a monitoring station. This technology has resulted in improved overall safety and increased productivity for workers across multiple industries. But the chief benefit of portable duress solutions is that lone workers can feel supported to do their work with the knowledge that safe work processes are in place. The adoption of portable duress solutions also offers organisational benefits that include greater workforce engagement, less absenteeism and increased accountability.

Dean Hoult is General Manager at SafeTCard Australia.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Tyler Olson

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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