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The increasingly important role of lone worker protection solutions in a world where reducing business risk is a major focus for employers.

Author: Liam Collins/14 January 2016/Categories: Blog

It was April 20th 2010 when I realised that how employers looked at evaluating business risk would change forever. Up until this date, most organisations didn’t have risk managers and in the corporate arena, accountancy & financial risks were as far as the topic was explored. Risk and in particular, the way in which a company managed the impact of risk was never really a topic for public discussion with most organisations dealing with the impact of risk behind closed doors and certainly out of sight of customers.

So what happened in April 2010 that caused me to think about the wider context of business risk and specifically, why that would have such a significant impact on my business as a provider of lone worker security solutions? 
That fateful day, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico; a rig operated by BP. The subsequent environmental impact to marine life is well documented but what interested me most was how the incident and more specifically, how the PR of the incident was poorly managed. It was the first big corporate accident in a world where social media platforms connected consumers and allowed them to share their thoughts worldwide. It signalled the end to a company’s ability to manage the PR ‘message’ after such an incident. What didn’t help either was some ill-judged words to camera from an embattled CEO and an American President publically shaming BP. 

So this particular risk cost BP dear in terms of the clean-up required but the far bigger cost was the damage to its brand and the 30% subsequent drop in its share price. I suspect I wasn’t alone in thinking ‘wow, risk really is expensive’.

So how did an expensive oil spill help grow the lone worker market? Well in the past five years (and its accelerating), I have noticed a rise in the number of companies who have designated Risk Managers, Directors or even a ‘CRO’. I have also heard many comments from senior staff in businesses where brand is pivotal to their enterprise valuation and that embarking on a wider reaching review of where risk exists in their business is of paramount importance. I also think there is now a general acceptance that if the s**t is going to hit the fan, gone are the days where you can ‘manage’ the PR! Many of these companies have embarked on developing a better understanding of where risk can occur and if they have mobile working staff then an incident involving those staff tends to get included in the corporate risk register.

The mobility of working has arguably been the largest single change in how we work, certainly in the last 20years. No longer do we all commute every day to a designated point of work, instead we work from home, the car, train or bus, airports and stations. Businesses have been very quick to exploit mobile working as it delivers benefits and savings in spades. Not many though naturally think of the ‘cons’ but the safety and security of staff operating whilst mobile is a consideration for all employers.

Even when employers do consider the risks, it can often be a challenge to get the staff and their managers to see the impact of risk and how it might personally affect them. Unfortunately, it is often an incident that causes a business and its staff to truly appreciate the cost.

And I don’t expect the appreciation of lone worker risk and its costs to subside. On the 3rd November 2015, the Sentencing Council in the UK updated and republished its guidelines to UK Courts on Health & Safety as well as Corporate Manslaughter offences. It used to be that the previous starting threshold for fines under the latter was £500,000 but now fines for large organisations are recommended to start at £7,500,000 with a suggested category range for high culpability cases being between £4,800,000 and £20,000,000. Serious fines indeed.

So to conclude, I believe that some very clear benefits now exist for employers to be proactive in considering how to remove or reduce their lone worker risks (aside from it also being the law!). The combined impact of high fines, reputational brand damage as well as legal costs and reduced share prices would be a perfect storm for any employer and so these risks need to be taken seriously.

I am proud to be the Chairman of the BSIA lone worker section and I know that all of our member companies share my desire to assist companies in addressing these risks. Our section is very active and we work very closely with the Police to ensure their time and resources are correctly managed also. The implementation of high quality lone worker solutions is good for the employee, the employer, the Police and of course...the BSIA member there to support all of these important stakeholders.


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