Why it is vital for companies to take measures to ensure the safety of their mobile workforce – and how they can do it
If you’re an employer of field-based staff working off site, you’ll be aware of your health and safety obligations. Whether your employees work at a desk, on the road, at height or underground, under current health and safety law, you are required to keep them safe.
You will also be aware that in many cases, the potential risks could be greater for mobile workers than office-based staff. You can’t always protect them from harm, but you can develop the programmes, follow the procedures, and implement the technology to minimise the risks.
Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places a legal responsibility on employers to:
- Prepare a written health and safety policy and bring it to the attention of employees
- Provide safe systems of work
- Provide a safe working environment for employees
- Provide information, instruction, training and supervision
Don’t run the risk
Failure to comply with health and safety law can have severe consequences. If you don’t take the necessary precautions to protect your mobile workforce, it will affect morale, decrease productivity, and potentially increase staff turnover.
If incidents occur, however small they might be, they could lead to higher insurance premiums, compensation pay-outs, and negative PR for the company.
The worst consequence of all, of course, is that you will be putting your workforce in danger. In 2011, Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was found guilty of corporate manslaughter relating to an employee’s death. Alexander Wright, 27, was alone in a 12ft deep unsupported trial pit when it caved in. It was the first prosecution under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 and the company was fined £385,000.
The sentencing council commented: “Fines (for breaches of health and safety) should be big enough to have a real economic impact which will bring home to the offending organisation the importance of achieving a safe environment for those affected by its activities.”
So what can you do to protect your workers?
The NHS, recognised as the fifth largest employer in the world, lists five things that managers and colleagues can do to help protect the safety of lone workers in its document Improving Safety for Lone Workers. They can apply to any organisation with a mobile workforce:
- Report incidents
- Attend training sessions
- Follow lone worker policy and procedures
- Assess the risks to their personal safety
- Make use of available technology
Effective reporting mechanisms, training programmes, company-wide policies and risk assessments are all crucial; some are legal requirements. However, even with all of those in place, if you do not provide your mobile workforce with the right technology, you could still be putting them at risk.
Take mobile phones, for example. Almost one third of the UK’s landmass is a not-spot, where one or more mobile networks are unavailable; the same applies for nearly half of our A and B roads. If your mobile workforce relies on a conventional mobile network to make contact or ensure connectivity, then you could be putting them at risk.
One solution comes in the form of Strongest Signal Mobile (SSM) technology which can guarantee network coverage even when one or more operators are not available. It uses smart SIM technology to access all UK mobile networks and switches to the strongest signal, regardless of location, providing the best chance of keeping your mobile workers connected.
- No individual should be put at any more risk than another in the workplace, but the risks for mobile workers are often greater
- Companies must follow guidelines to ensure they have taken all necessary steps to reduce the risk of harm to employees
- The financial penalties for failing to do so can be huge – affecting the future of the whole company if serious incidents occur
- Those steps include putting the right technology in place, recognising the barriers that exist, for example, not-spots affecting mobile network coverage
- Strongest Sim Mobile technology can continue to provide network coverage even when one or more operators are not available