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Patrick Dealtry: Lone Working - a risky business

Author: SuperUser Account/30 January 2015/Categories: Blog

patrick-dealtry-bsia-lone-workerPatrick Dealtry, chairman of the British Security Industry Association’s Lone Worker Section, discusses changes within the lone worker market as well as organisational best practice when it comes to putting effective safeguards in place to ensure the safety of those working in isolation.

Most of us learned the basics of risk, without being really aware of it, at our mother’s knee. 

Look before you cross the road

Don’t accept lifts from strangers

And so on.

However that is not really enough in today’s world where we are long gone from the parental umbrella and exposed to anything life has to throw at us.  We have personal responsibility.

Increasingly in the workplace personal responsibility is seen as the job of the organisation rather than the individual.   To an extent this is right, but in the case of Lone Workers it must be a combination of the two.  The Lone Worker, because they are on their own as far as the organisation is concerned, must also look out for themselves.  The Organisation, because they still have their Duty of Care, must give the Lone Worker the tools to do so.

It is a big responsibility for both because while the individual stands in the way of harm, the organisation may lose a valuable employee, at least for a period, and stand accused of failing in its duties.  This can have potentially devastating consequences with the threat of legislation and litigation

We know that these events may not happen often, but happen they do and must be taken seriously.

The Lone Worker market

The Lone Worker market got under way in the UK about 12 years ago and we are now seen as leading the world.  Among organisations, public and private, the NHS was in the lead in its understanding of the issues and the need to do something about it.

The British Standard for Lone Worker services, BS8484, was issued in 2009 and was a success in that it enabled the highest level of police response, gave structure to the market and provided a yardstick for companies wishing to supply services and organisations wishing to buy them. The NHS played an influential part in developing the standard. 

Some facts and terms

Police response

The police will only provide their highest level of response to Lone Worker alarms received from an Alarm Receiving Centre accredited to BS8484 Part 6 which requires a special URN (see below). If not then the alternative is the much slower and less certain 999 system.

Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC)

An ARC is a monitoring centre which is protected physically and electronically with highly trained staff and which meets BS5979 for all sorts of alarm monitoring.  For Lone Worker monitoring its also has to meet BS8484 Part 6 where operators have two main responsibilities:

1.   Verifying Lone Worker alarms to ensure that false alarms do not get passed on to the police or other response service

2.   Managing a verified alarm to completion in accordance with the instructions of the customer

Unique Reference Number (URN)

This is a special Lone Worker URN and is issued by each police force to an ARC against the criteria laid down in Appendix V (for Lone Workers), of their Security Systems Policy. 


A standard for suppliers and buyers of Lone Worker services which are based on a device or app.  It has 4 main parts:

1.   Part 4 for the Company supplying services

2.   Part 5 for the device or app

3.   Part 6 for the ARC

4.   Part 7 for response

Response standard

The recently issued BS7984-2:2014 is for security companies providing Keyholding and Mobile response services and who wish to also provide a response to Lone Worker alarms.

Lone Worker alarm

The ARC operator needs 3 vital pieces of information before managing a Lone Worker alarm; accurate location, identity and personal details and the situation.  The situation is normally acquired through an audio link and other information which may come from a timer, pre-alert or man-down function.

Best practice - what to look for

Because the NHS Security Management Service, or NHS Protect as it now is, were involved in the standard’s development they have a service which, as far as possible, suits their requirements.

Knowing this and as promoters of Best Practice, NHS Trusts can lead by example and use Lone Worker services that are accredited to the standard. 

This shows that Trusts are protecting their Lone Workers and themselves by using services that result from investment in the highest standard of service which they need and which their employees deserve.

There are though a number of items anyone should check when selecting a company supplying Lone Worker Services.

·         Accreditations

o   Are they accredited to BS8484 Part 4?

o   Do they use an ARC accredited to BS8484 Part 6?

o   Are their devices or apps certified to BS8484 Part 5?

·         Certificates. Suppliers should be able to produce certificates for BS8484 Parts 4 and 6, issued by either NSI or SSAIB as the only two organisations authorised by the police to provide accreditation resulting in their highest level of police response

·         Satisfy yourselves that they are financially stable, now and for the term of any contract

·         Are they properly insured; check their certificate?

·         Does the ARC hold URNs for the police force(s) which cover your area?

·         Are staff with access to User personal details security screened to BS7858?

·         Do they have an efficient complaints and customer service function?

·         If a Smartphone app is being considered, does it work properly on your Smartphone make and model?

·         Does the mobile network provide coverage in your area?

·         Is training included?  How is training for new staff covered?  Does training include awareness and how to deal with threatening situations?

·         Are management reports supplied?

Additionally it is worth noting that members of the British Security Industry Association Lone Worker Section are accredited to BS848 and are also required to meet ISO9001.

The future

BS8484:20011 will be revised over the next year or so, a process in which the NHS will be invited to share.  The process is likely to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

That apart, some companies are expanding their services to include workforce safety and workforce management.

Others are:

·         Providing web-based monitoring applications that can be viewed from a PC or handheld device

·         Venturing into the world of Telecare

·         Offering international services

There is a growth in Smartphone applications for operating systems including iOS, Blackberry, Android and Windows.  Customers should make sure the app they are proposing to use will work on their make and model of Smartphones.

This blog entry originally appeared on NHS Protect's Keep Safe newsletter .


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