On a Tuesday afternoon, you send a maintenance contractor out to a remote station to perform a routine check on some of your equipment. Your contractor drives out to the nearest access road, parks his truck, and walks over to the site. When he gets there, his personal gas monitor alerts him to high levels of dangerous gases. He knows he should call for backup, but it could be another hour before a peer can help. This has happened before, so he thinks he can make a quick fix and get out of the cold. He silences the alarm on his monitor, bends down to start working, and is overcome by the gases.
When you haven’t heard from the contractor by the next day, you ask around the shop. Nobody has seen him. You remember he was headed out to one of your remote stations the last time you saw him. You send someone to look for him – but by then, it’s too late. You think about who will deliver the news to the man’s family.
Lone worker risks
Situations like this are the devastating reality for too many lone workers. Lone workers like contractors, upstream and midstream oil and gas workers, utility workers, and many more face the same hazards as their on-site peers, but they can’t rely on a coworker or a passerby to help them in an emergency. When they face danger on the job, it could be hours or even days before help arrives. The independent work that many enjoy is the very same thing that puts these workers at such a high risk.
In some parts of the world, lone worker regulations are raising awareness that companies need to provide workers with devices that can connect them to safety resources. Protecting lone workers presents special challenges, however, even in an era of constant connectivity. Many devices, including gas detectors, have connectivity features designed to transfer information from a lone worker back to safety personnel on site. Although connectivity features are a tremendous step forward in protecting our most vulnerable employees, not all lone worker solutions deliver the protection they need.
Features to consider
Here’s what you should look for in a lone worker device to ensure your workers have the lifeline to safety they need:
1) Integrated Solution
Many lone worker devices on the market today are one-trick ponies. They can provide GPS tracking or a panic button or a man down alert or gas detection with live monitoring – but lone workers often need all of these features in one device. The more devices you add to a worker’s gear, the more likely it is that one will be lost, left behind, or run out of power. When investing in a device to connect lone workers to safety, look for a solution that gives them all the tools they need in one package.
2) Automatic Failover Connectivity
Lone workers are often dispatched to remote areas with little to no cellular coverage. If your lone worker solution relies on cell connectivity alone, your worker will be without a lifeline at some point. When that happens, the mobile worker is truly alone, and safety personnel have no visibility into what hazards they face or where they’re located. If something were to happen, such as an H2S alarm with no response, safety personnel would not know to send help. Your lone worker device must have automatic failover connectivity through another method. Cellular and satellite are an ideal combination to ensure a worker is connected in even the most remote locations.
3) Live Monitoring and Alerts
You need live monitoring to show you where a worker is located at any given moment, but you should also expect real-time alerts. Nobody has time to constantly monitor a map of worker locations, so you should find a lone worker solution that offers instant text or email alerts to grab your attention. Those alerts should include the worker’s name, location, and reason for the alert – whether it’s a man-down alarm, panic situation, or exposure to a gas hazard.
4) Infrastructure to Connect Devices
Most lone worker devices relay live data through a gateway back to safety personnel on site. Unfortunately, some of these gateways need extra infrastructure for every few monitors. With today’s technology, you should be able to connect devices with one gateway, which could lead to thousands of dollars in cost savings.
5) Automatic Connectivity
Being a lone worker is hard, so don’t add the burden of troubleshooting connectivity issues. The best lone worker monitoring systems automatically connect devices in the field to cloud monitoring systems as soon as they’re powered on – no questions asked.
6) No Maintenance
Look for a lone worker solution with a no maintenance gateway – one that can run from a power supply like a vehicle that won’t require charging or cables.
Looking out for the safety and well-being of your workers is a huge responsibility, but it’s one you don’t have to shoulder alone. Lone worker devices can help you avoid situations like the one presented here, so you never have to live with the regret of, “If only I had known he needed me.”
If you choose your solution carefully, you can breathe easily knowing you have complete visibility into what your workers are experiencing, even when they’re miles away.