Check Call Guide: Response for Lone Worker Safety

Check Call Guide: Response for Lone Worker Safety

‘Check calls’ or ‘check-in calls’ can mean different things depending on the context they are used in. In workplace health and safety, this can provide a lifeline for many workers around the world, especially lone workers. According to the British Crime Survey, 150 lone workers are physically or verbally attacked every day and, unfortunately, this number is likely to be under-reported. Only around one third (36%) of lone workers talk to their employer when they have felt unsafe at work. However, most companies are unaware, with nearly all (92%) believing that their lone workers are speaking to them regularly about any incidents and concerns. With such alarming figures in the UK alone, we explore the impact of check calls and how they can maximise workplace safety and productivity to protect all workers, especially those working alone.

What are check calls?

Check calls are predominantly used to help determine the well-being of individuals working alone, after hours or remotely. They are usually part of routine communication protocols to help supervisors and managers monitor the safety of their team. These calls generally involve a worker contacting a designated member of the team, whether that’s a supervisor or allocated buddy, at predetermined schedules to confirm they’re okay and act as an alarm if they’re feeling unsafe or at risk. Alternatively, supervisors and managers may call employees at specific times to ensure they’re not at risk. By establishing a means of regular two-way communication through these checkpoints, organisations can promptly intervene in any emergencies or incidents that may arise. This enhances the overall safety and security of lone workers in challenging and hazardous environments.

Why are check calls important?

Check calls act as a vital safety net for lone workers, who are often exposed to a unique set of hazards and are at much higher risk of injury. There are many statistics that highlight the urgency of implementing this into the safety process. Almost one in five (19%) lone worker professionals report having an accident and struggling to get help, while almost half (44%) stated they felt unsafe while at work. This vulnerability is further amplified by the under-reporting of incidents. Surveys indicate that only a third of lone workers express safety concerns to their employer while only 45% of lone workers think these concerns have been addressed to a fair or great extent. This highlights an alarming gap in employer and organisational awareness.

Regular check calls bridge this communication gap and empower lone workers. By establishing a direct line with supervisors and colleagues, workers have an immediate means to voice concerns and receive prompt assistance in case of emergency. This provides peace of mind for both employees and organisations by fostering a sense of security while encouraging a more open culture around safety within the workplace. By establishing a structured system of check calls, organisations can swiftly respond to any incidents, mitigating potential risks and safeguarding the welfare of lone workers.

What are the benefits of check calls?

Implementing check calls offers a multitude of benefits for both organisations and employees. These routine check-ins establish a consistent lifeline between the lone worker and their support network, offering reassurance and prompt assistance in high-risk situations. However, the critical role they play extends beyond lone worker safety. Check calls can significantly contribute to improving overall workplace morale and communication.

Check calls are a proactive and preventative measure for workplace incidents. A well-developed check-in system for lone workers can help reduce the number of accidents. Reducing the risks translates not only to a safer work environment but also to potential savings for organisations through reduced costs directly and indirectly related to incidents, insurance premiums and lost work hours.

Furthermore, check calls foster a sense of connection and belonging among employees, especially those who often work remotely or in isolation. For years there have been strong links between poor communication and low morale across a wide range of industries. Conversely, research published by McKinsey & Company found that employee productivity increases by 20–25% in organisations where employees feel connected. Such numbers demonstrate the positive impact of communication on morale, which translates to increased productivity and a more engaged workforce.


Common challenges with check calls

While there are many benefits to implementing check calls, it’s important to acknowledge and address any challenges. One common area for concern is the potential for missed or delayed responses because of poor connectivity or other technical issues, which can jeopardise the swift response required in emergencies. Additionally, there may be instances where lone workers or supervisors forget to make their scheduled check-in or fail to meet the predetermined frequency, leaving the lone worker without support in vulnerable situations. Moreover, in high-pressure or hazardous environments, lone workers may feel hesitant to report their status accurately or may underestimate the severity of a situation, leading to a false sense of security for those monitoring their safety. These challenges underscore the importance of implementing robust systems and procedures to ensure the effectiveness of check calls in safeguarding lone worker well-being.

How do check calls work?

To establish a check call system, organisations should implement a thorough risk assessment. This assessment identifies the roles and responsibilities within the organisation that qualify as lone working. Factors considered include working hours, physical locations, and potential risks and hazards associated with the job. Once the roles for lone working are identified, a communication plan should be created. This plan outlines the frequency of check-ins, preferred method of communication (such as phone calls, SMS, dedicated apps, or tools) and who will initiate the contact (lone worker or supervisor).

The communication plan should be clearly documented and communicated to all lone workers. It should outline the specific procedures to be followed during a check call. It should also include details such as the information to be exchanged (confirmation of well-being, location updates), what constitutes a missed check-in and the escalation protocol if a lone worker cannot be reached.

The evolution of technology has provided a significant transformation in streamlining check call processes. Typically, lone workers were required to initiate phone calls or messages at predetermined intervals, signalling their well-being. If a check call was missed, personnel would be required to investigate. While this operated on a simple principle, lone worker safety devices now have integrated check-in functions that can automate the process. For instance, a comprehensive solution such as Bodytrak® provides features including fall detection, SOS alert and geolocation. In the event where a lone worker is incapacitated and unable to perform the check-in, the system immediately alerts supervisors via the Dashboard, email, SMS and WhatsApp with the user’s location so that support can be dispatched quickly. Solutions like this provide reassurance to both lone workers and organisations while addressing a wide range of risks.

While there are different methods for check calls available, it’s important that the lines of communication are clear and effective training is provided throughout the organisation. Updated and regular training should be provided to lone workers, supervisors and any designated colleagues if applicable. This should cover the communication plan, the check-in process and how to use any devices that are being implemented.


Best practices for check calls

Check calls should be adaptable and have the ability to evolve alongside the organisation’s needs and environmental changes. This requires regularly reviewing the effectiveness of the process and incorporating feedback from the lone workers and supervisors who are using it frequently. Staying up to date with regulatory requirements and emerging technology will offer new opportunities for streamlined communication and enhanced safety features. By embracing continuous improvements, organisations can ensure their check call processes remain robust and reliable in a dynamic and diverse workplace.

Creating effective check call processes goes beyond simply confirming a worker’s presence. They can serve as an opportunity to build trust and accountability. By establishing a consistent schedule for check-ins, at regular intervals throughout the shift, supervisors can use these points to gain insights about the employee’s well-being, workload and any potential concerns for safety. This two-way communication creates a sense of support and encourages lone workers to proactively report issues before they can escalate. Regularly touching base with teams also demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to workplace safety which leads to increased productivity, employee morale and loyalty.


Check call technology

At the end of 2021, lone worker safety solutions were estimated to have 1.3 million users in Europe and North America. The market value for lone worker safety solutions in Europe and North America reached $108.5 million and $70.5 million, respectively, that year. In Europe, the market value is forecast to grow to $146.4 million in 2026 and, in North America, to reach $103.5 million in 2026. The market is growing with the rise of lone workers, allowing for more innovative and reliable methods for check calls, which are often a prominent feature of these solutions. Traditionally, check calls relied on manual processes, with lone workers initiating contact at scheduled intervals. This method, while functional, had limitations as discussed previously.

Modern lone worker safety devices now offer integrated check-in functionality that conveniently automates the process and enhances safety features. Such devices can trigger automatic check-ins at predefined intervals, eliminating the need for workers to manually activate the call. Bodytrak also provides audio alerts at different time intervals to act as a reminder for lone workers to check in via the communications pack.

Consider a lone working engineer who has been called out for maintenance on heavy machinery and who is exhausted and/or working in temperatures of 40°C/104°F. With a solution like Bodytrak, the lone worker will receive audio prompt alerts if they are experiencing fatigue or their core body temperature (CBT) exceeds the pre-set threshold, so they know they are at risk of serious injury and are prompted to take the necessary precautions immediately. Simultaneously, the control centre will also receive an alert via the Dashboard (and SMS, WhatsApp and email, if configured) to alert them that one of their employees requires assistance, along with their location. If an employee is transporting valuable goods, and vulnerable to theft (i.e. lorry drivers at risk of hijackings), the user can trigger an SOS alarm via the device so that support can be sent rapidly using their geolocation as vital information.

This eliminates the risk of human error by implementing automated reminders while incorporating other features that help mitigate the high risks of lone working. In the event of incidents like the example, or where a lone worker is unable to complete a manual check-in, there are other system alerts to supervisors that indicate the need for immediate assistance. This not only expedites the response time but provides supervisors with the worker’s location, enabling them to pinpoint exactly where they are and dispatch assistance promptly.

A comprehensive solution that provides physiological monitoring, as well as audio reminders to check in and user-activated alarms, offers peace of mind to both lone workers and organisations. Lone workers benefit from a reliable safety net provided by the solutions, while organisations have the opportunity to increase their awareness and open communication to keep workers safe.


Conclusion

The rise of lone workers is necessitating a proactive approach to safety. Implementing a well-designed check call system, supported by advanced technology, should no longer be an option but a critical measure for all organisations. Modern technology offers a wealth of sophisticated solutions, replacing manual check-ins with automated processes and integrated safety features. Such solutions provide peace of mind for lone workers and organisations alike. Ultimately, a robust and successful check call programme goes beyond confirming a worker’s presence. Check calls provide an opportunity to facilitate more trust and accountability through regular two-way communication. This open dialogue empowers lone workers to proactively report concerns and ensures supervisors remain informed about well-being and potential safety hazards. By prioritising lone worker safety, organisations can reap the benefits of increased productivity, improved morale and a loyal team.

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