Lone working is a concern for many companies, especially pharmaceutical manufacturers, who deal with a variety of potentially dangerous chemical substances. Staff and premises are at risk due to lone working practices. With automation and twenty-four-hour operational requirements, it’s often the case that it may be necessary for employees to carry out part of their work alone. In such circumstances, the employers have a duty of care to ensure the safety of workers. Examples include security patrols, maintenance, engineering and operational checks. With the Coronavirus pandemic and the changes in working practices, lone working is becoming a reality for many individuals and the companies for which they work.
Risks of Lone Working in Pharmaceuticals
Plant rooms and warehouses are some of the riskiest areas of a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. A combination of noise and dangerous equipment makes lone working a high-risk activity in these areas. Engineers carrying out checks or warehouse employees retrieving stock or finished product may occasionally work alone.
Ensuring the safety of the employees is a massive responsibility for the workers. Creating a safe working environment for lone workers involves identifying the risks and putting in measures to eliminate or control the risks. Communication and providing a reliable system for raising the alarm are essential aspects of managing the risks lone workers face.
What Companies are doing to Protect Workers
Lone working presents two distinct challenges to companies. Firstly, maintaining reliable communication among colleagues with those who are working alone within a facility. Secondly, having a reliable means of raising the alarm and requesting help in the event of an incident involving a lone worker.
A comprehensive lone worker policy is the foundation of any efforts to ensure the safety of lone workers. Built on a risk assessment, the policy guides a company towards the most effective interventions to solve the two challenges above. So, what are companies doing to meet these challenges?
Robust policies, training and developing the knowledge and skills of lone workers is a good way organisations can improve the safety of employees. Furthermore, companies can also use technology in the form of communication devices and mobile applications to monitor employees working alone. These systems can also notify a colleagues should a lone worker fall or activate a panic button.
Under the current Health and Safety legislation, every company has a responsibility towards ensuring a safe working environment for its employees. Employees are equally responsible for their safety and the safety of others. When it comes to lone working, the company has to carry out a risk assessment and then put measures in place to mitigate the risks. This may be through staff training and providing communication and equipment. The employee’s job is to read, understand and follow lone working procedures, ensure they use the equipment the company provides correctly and report any failures promptly.
Choosing the Right Solution
A good health and safety policy, employee training and technology may work in some situations, but manufacturing plants may require something better. Some companies cannot rely on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE connection in manufacturing premises because the signal can be unreliable. They need a secure and trustworthy alternative connection to make sure that employees remain contactable when working alone.
What Is IP DECT Technology?
IP Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) offers an alternative communications system for employees and lone workers in areas where there is a poor wireless signal. The installation of a DECT system in a manufacturing plant ensures reliable communications when 2G, 3G or 4G wireless networks are poor or unavailable.
ANT Telecom offers a range of DECT phones and solutions suitable for use in a range of environments. For the pharmaceutical industry, handsets ideal for use in potentially explosive atmosphere conditions (ATEX) are available.
The design and installation of a DECT system will ensure adequate coverage inside buildings and externally. AN IP DECT system can come with messaging capabilities which allows quick response to emergencies on site. The integration of the telephone system with fire and building management systems also allows the automatic distribution of critical alarm messages direct to staff DECT phones.
The successful deployment and adoption of ANT Telecom’s IP DECT technology by a leading pharmaceutical company is testament to the high regard industry holds the reliability of this system (see the case study here). Not only has the company chosen this system to protect lone workers and enhance sitewide communication, but they have also gone a step further to improve overall worker safety. The installation of location beacons throughout the site now enables emergency responders to pinpoint the source of a man-down alarm. Staff and management of the manufacturing plant welcome the improvements in safety and ANT Telecom’s expertise in delivering this project.
Is Your System Protecting Lone Workers Enough?
When it comes to improving lone working safety in your pharmaceutical company, an IP DECT solution is perfect for your lone working staff. You can have robust policies and procedures, but it’s what happens on the ground that matters the most. If your current lone worker practices are not offering your employees the peace of mind they deserve, perhaps it’s time to make a change. ANT Telecom can design a custom lone worker solution to meet your unique requirements. Get in touch today to find out the right solution for keeping your pharmaceutical plant workers safe.