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Protecting Lone Workers from sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms and is shockingly more common than we realise, equally impacting both men and women.

Statistics show that 83 million people have experienced sexual harassment from the age of 15, with 50% of women and 20% of men experiencing sexual harassment at work. Despite these shocking statistics, many more instances of sexual harassment in the workplace still go unnoticed, unreported and subsequently, unresolved.

Forms of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can range from mild to more extreme forms and can be written, verbal and physical. These range from unwanted comments and discrimination, emails with sexual content, sexual advances, intimidation, unwanted physical contact and assault. All forms should be taken equally as seriously and dealt with immediately by employers.

 Heightened Risks

Although sexual harassment can occur at any time and in any location, there is a greater risk to lone working employees, particularly when working late, out of hours and often out of sight where signalling for help can be challenging.

Lone workers are also at high risk when undertaking visits behind closed-doors, where they could face volatile behaviour and aggression from clients, tenants and abusive members of the public. Commonly, roles which involve lone workers visiting homes without any attendance include; care workers, charity workers, family officers, NHS staff, surveyors and real estate workers.

There are also lone workers who are required to deal with members of the public under the influence of alcohol and drugs or suffering from emotional issues which can cause a change in behaviour. Without the appropriate care and training, individuals can be left particularly vulnerable in one on one situations.

Consequences of sexual harassment

  • Stress reaction including anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, lowered self-esteem and more
  • Poor company morale
  • Less productivity in staff
  • Creates an environment for sexual harassment to flourish
  • Lawsuits

By violating the dignity of a worker, sexual harassment can ultimately create an environment of an intimidating, hostile and degrading nature.

What can be done?

Sadly, many cases of sexual harassment go unreported due to workers feeling unable to challenge or defend themselves against the perpetrator if they are in fact a client. As a result, as much as 53% of women and 69% of men did not report sexual harassment at work.

Cases of sexual harassment may not be reported by staff if they do not feel confident that there is substantial support from their company put in place, creating a barrier for them to take action.

The effects of sexual harassment are monumental and even as little as one instance can have detrimental knock-on consequences to both the company and their staff if not investigated properly and dealt with. Therefore, this is why it is so important to educate and train your staff.

Educating and training staff can be achieved through a strong Sexual Harassment policy to ensure the workplace is free of discrimination.  Training sessions should also be arranged for employers to ask questions and be as informed as possible on the matter in order to provide reassurance and instil confidence so that they can be prepared and take the necessary response if faced with this situation.

As an employer, you should seek to have a work environment that is understanding and sympathetic to all employees, including dynamic risk assessment training to evaluate risks and how to overcome them.

You should also make it clear who to report incidents of sexual harassment to and reinforce the idea that employees experiences will be taken seriously.

Lone Worker Safety Solution

A safety solution in the form of an app should be highly considered, as it enables a lone worker to signal for help even in difficult situations. This kind of solution can reassure both the company and their staff by providing accurate and reliable safety monitoring through alert functionality and location updates.

Duress alert

If an employee feels threatened whilst working remotely or otherwise, they can raise an alarm secretly and unknown to their attacker by inputting a special duress PIN. This will fool the attacker into thinking the app has been disabled when in fact a duress alert has been raised in the Hub and help can be sent immediately.

Discreet panic

Generated by pressing the phones power button, a user can raise a panic alert swiftly and discreetly from a hidden area, such as a bag or pocket.

Wearable device

The StaySafe app can even be paired with a bluetooth button which can be attached to a lanyard, clothing or worn around the wrist, and used send a panic alert without touching their phone.

While safety measures, policies and training are essential in protecting employees from sexual harassment and assault, a lone worker app is a reliable way of ensuring a lone worker is never completely alone.

Aspire Housing

Housing Association Aspire Housing launched StaySafe to oversee the safety of their lone workers when visiting potentially dangerous neighbourhoods and properties.

Aspire Housing is made up of three strands; Aspire Housing, PM Training and Realise Charity. Lone working is common practice in both the Housing and Charity strands, where employees regularly visit homes and properties alone.

Housing employees visit homes to support clients as well as carrying out repairs and maintenance operations, while lone workers operating in the charity strand meet with and support young people.

Working across a range of environments and often behind closed doors, Aspire recognised that their employees could be exposed to a number of risks on a daily basis. While safety has always been a priority, Aspire identified that the dedicated device they had in place had become outdated and was no longer fit for purpose. As a result, Aspire undertook a review of the other solutions available and decided to trial StaySafe. Trial users responded positively to the new software and Aspire felt that StaySafe provided the most cost-effective and user-friendly solution for their staff.

How StaySafe helped:

  • An easy to use, time efficient alternative to an outdated system
  • Visibility of staff location on a real-time GPS map
  • Accurate and concise reporting to support Health and Safety policy
  • No extra equipment needed – staff already carry smartphones daily
  • Mandatory check-ins prompt users to check-in every 2 hours, letting Aspire know staff are safe throughout the day

Why did Aspire launch StaySafe?

Housing employees have been found to be particularly at risk of violence and aggression due to working with a diverse cross-section of the public and often behind closed doors. Shockingly, according to Inside Housing Magazine, in the UK an assault occurs every 35 working minutes. Out of 346 workers surveyed in 2015 as part of Freedom of Information requests made to every local authority in the UK, 69% reported they had been verbally assaulted within the last 12 months whilst carrying out their duties, with nine taken hostage and 27 attacked through being kicked, pushed or punched.

Aspire’s housing and charity sector lone workers are at risk when visiting members of the public, particularly vulnerable individuals who may be hostile or abusive. To mitigate these risks, Aspire use StaySafe for added reassurance that their workers are monitored and can easily signal for help when operating alone in properties and travelling between appointments.

The Results

HR Business Partner at Aspire, Clare Godbold comments:

Our Lone Workers have a positive feel for the app and find it easy to use and navigate. It is really useful that the app has a range of features and offers all the functionality we need in one place, without assistance from another device. As we have multiple workers visiting many properties and client’s homes, it is important we can keep on top of their safety between appointments through mandatory check-ins. Overall, the app adds reassurance for us and our employees and we are confident that this system offers better value for money than our previous system, which was regularly left forgotten or uncharged by our lone workers.

Aspire were also impressed by the range of additional features the StaySafe app provides. For example, Discreet Panic provides a way to signal for help out of view – from a pocket or handbag. In addition, if a member of staff is confronted by an attacker and are forced to switch off the app, entering a duress PIN conceals that the worker is signalling for help and cleverly behaves as if the app has been switched off and any alerts cancelled.

Hafod Housing

Hafod Housing are a not-for-profit organisation, providing affordable housing, care and support across South East Wales. Managing over 4,000 homes, Hafod Housing rely on a team of lone workers operating over a range of roles; from maintenance surveyors to caretakers and housing officers.

Lone workers at Hafod Housing are largely public facing and are frequently required to make visits independently to properties. Hafod works with some of the most vulnerable people in the community and do not always have the opportunity to meet and assess residents before housing them. Due to the nature of their work, Hafod’s housing officers are at higher risk of antisocial behaviours such as violence and aggression.

Those working to maintain properties regularly use ladders, heavy tools and carry out work on roofs and other potentially unstable structures. The risks they face tend to be more environmental as they are exposed to common workplace risks such as slips, trips and falls.

How StaySafe helped

  • Accurate monitoring through timed sessions and regular check-in intervals
  • Reliable alert options for situations of conflict
  • Precise location data in case of an emergency
  • Convenient and easily accessible smartphone app

Why did Hafod launch StaySafe?

Before using StaySafe, Hafod relied on a dedicated device system to monitor the safety of their lone workers. However, this system failed to meet their needs due to the absence of accurate location tracking which was vital in locating staff working alone, behind closed-doors, if an alert was raised.

Staff would also regularly forget to carry or charge these separate devices, which they were required to wear on lanyards. As an extra piece of equipment to bring to work each day, Hafod also found that staff would regularly forget to either charge the device, bring it to work with them or take it away with them before moving offsite.

Therefore, monitoring often proved impossible, and employees left vulnerable working alone.

Following a review of the market, Hafod shortlisted StaySafe as their preferred safety solution, commending both the features of the solution and the level of customer service, which went above and beyond what they had previously experienced. Hafod also concluded that by switching to StaySafe, there was no need to rely on their staff remembering additional devices, as the app is conveniently already on their phone which they naturally carry with them.

The Results

The App

Since using StaySafe, Hafod feels reassured that they are meeting their duty of care to their lone working staff. Employees can be monitored in situations that previously proved difficult to do so and the wide range of functionality provided by the app ensures there is a reliable way for them to signal for help.

Where signal and data may be limited in buildings and remote areas for Hafod Housing’s employees, StaySafe’s SMS fall-back feature allows workers to maintain uninterrupted sessions. This works through an automatic low signal mode, where the app will seek out any available connection, even at 2G, so that session functions and alerts can continue to be sent via SMS.

The Duress PIN is used by Hafod to mitigate situations where employees could face aggression from clients. If a worker is trapped in a situation where they have instigated a panic alert, but their aggressor forcibly tries to shut down the operation, the worker can enter their unique duress pin. This disguises the alert, making it appear to the aggressor that it has been cancelled. In reality, the duress alert will reach a manager as a matter of urgency.

The Hub

Through the StaySafe Hub, Hafod uses our external around-the-clock monitoring partner, Securitas to gain greater awareness of employee location and safety. The solution has proven time-saving as there is no need for manual monitoring. If an alert is sent by an employee, or they fail to check-in safely, a Securitas monitor will be alerted via email, SMS and in the Hub. The monitor can then open the Hub and immediately locate the employee and respond appropriately, escalating to the correct member of staff at Hafod.

Client Feedback

In addition to the reassurance the company now has in knowing that their workers are safe, staff have also fed back on their heightened sense of awareness of their own safety. This is important for housing workers who need to dynamically assess the environments they enter and deal with any possible risks alone. Being aware of safety and knowing that the company takes their well-being seriously, helps provide confidence that the lone workers can leave a situation if they feel uncomfortable, or call for additional assistance.

We are impressed by the versatility of the StaySafe app and broad range of features which tackle the issues we were previously facing. Switching to the StaySafe solution has proven more reliable, more user-friendly and much more efficient for lone workers and their managers. We now feel assured and wise to where our staff are which is of utmost importance as schedules can change last minute, and our staff are regularly in contact with members of the public that they have never met with before.

When talking to StaySafe, we were also incredibly impressed with the level of customer service and care we received. The StaySafe team were always on hand to answer any queries, provide additional information and even came in to train our staff. They helped make the transition from dedicated devices to a mobile app a smooth one and the support we receive still continues to this day.

-Nerys Eldridge, Project Officer, Hafod Housing Association

Three Reasons to Invest in Lone Worker Safety

It is currently estimated that 22% of the working population can be considered lone workers. With increasing pressures on businesses to enhance profits and productivity, and an increase in automation and new technologies, this number continues to grow year on year.

While lone working allows organisations to operate in a more efficient manner, it brings with it a new set of health and safety challenges. Lone workers are more vulnerable to the risks of violence, abuse, accident and injury since any risks they face, are faced alone.

But should organisations be taking extra care when protecting their lone working staff? This guide outlines three business reasons why you should take lone worker safety seriously; legal, moral and financial.

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The hidden costs of poor health & safety

When discussing the costs associated with poor workplace health and safety, direct costs such as fines and legal costs tend to take centre stage. While fines given to a business following a safety failing are designed to have a significant impact on the business, there are a multitude of ‘hidden costs’ that many forget to consider. Yet these hidden costs can also have a significant, and in many cases, ongoing financial impact on the business.

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Managing and Monitoring Remote Workers

A remote worker is anyone who works away from a fixed work base, such as an office or work site. Remote workers may work in small groups or on their own, and their roles are likely to require travel to different locations.

Typical jobs requiring remote working include:

  • Comunity and mental health workers
  • Mobile mortgage managers and business bankers
  • Travelling salespeople
  • Insurance assessors
  • Field service engineers
  • Maintenance/repairmen
  • Surveyors
  • Landscapers

Read more

Lone Worker Monitoring Service

Lone worker monitoring

Lone worker monitoring refers to the practice of monitoring the safety of employees who work alone or out of sight and sound of colleagues.

There are a number of systems that can be used to monitor work alone employees, many of which will use a method of check-in, and in some cases, location tracking and emergency alerts.

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Staying safe while working alone during the holiday season

For many, the holiday season means long periods of leisure and time spent in the home surrounded by family and friends. But for some, work continues as usual through these periods. However, we do not always consider that health and safety risks around the holiday season not only change but are likely to become more prevalent and heightened due to bad weather conditions (even in summer) and human risk.

So what are the increased hazards and what can we do to stay safe over the holiday period?

Click below to read on…

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We Are Beams

We Are Beams (Beams) is a UK charity working to support the disabled children, young people and their families across Kent.

As part of their Direct Payment Support Service, Beams is commissioned by the local authority to help families best use the available funding to meet their individual circumstances and needs. The service is provided by a team of lone workers who visit clients at their homes to offer support and advice. Travelling by country roads and working behind closed doors, Direct Payment Case Workers are exposed to both environmental and people risk.

“Dealing with finances can be overwhelming at the best of times. Many of our families employ support workers directly, adding another layer of responsibility or they need to find alternative services which meet their child’s needs to ensure they spend funding in the best way. Lone working allows us as a charity to support as many families in the community as possible to take the stress out of the process. We understand that lone working does come with a set of risks and we want our employees to feel safe and secure as they do so.” – Karen Dorling, Direct Payment Service Manager.

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Turner and Townsend use StaySafe to check-in with staff and monitor their safety out of hours

Turner and Townsend is a construction and project management consultancy, whose lone workers provide a range of services to organisations across the UK. Read more