Distilleries are fascinating places with the copper stills and barrels representing art as old as tradition. However, working in distilleries may be fraught with risk and employers and employees have to take precaution to stay safe at work. Like any other industrial manufacturing premises, there are both physical and operational hazards. Lone working is sometimes necessary in distilleries, further increasing the risk to employees.
A robust Health and Safety culture, management support and buy-in from the employees go a long way in making working in a distillery safe. What are the risks of lone working in a distillery environment? How do employers protect staff from the inherent nature of their work? Finally, why are lone worker devices vital to the safety of distillery workers? This article answers these questions and introduces a tried and tested solution to lone working for the drinks industry.
Risks and Opportunities
There are many risks involved in operating and running a distillery. Common distillery hazards include manual handling activities, exposure to carbon dioxide, chemicals and the risk of explosions. Just like any other industrial working environment, slips, trips and falls, the danger of electrocution, risk of falling objects and coming into contact with machinery are all typical risks you can come across in a distillery. There are safe systems of work to minimise the risk to employees and property, but sometimes these systems are not enough.
Lone working is one of the most significant risks for employees working in distilleries. Stills need to be manned and monitored round the clock and employees performing these duties may be on their own. Companies may have a buddy system in place, but it is inconceivable to expect that workers will always double up to perform every task.
With every risk comes an opportunity to improve the work environment and to make it safer. Distilleries invest in equipping their employees with the correct protective equipment to carry out their job safely. Secure design and construction as well as implementing safe systems of work and promoting a safety culture, ensure the risk of harm is reduced.
The Risks of Lone Working
Lone working, on the other hand, introduces unique challenges to the work environment. We have established that it is going to be part of the production process that employees can be reasonably expected to work alone at some point during their working day. Communication and means of raising the alarm thus become critical aspects of a lone working system in a distillery environment. The unique risks of lone working include the following:
- Poor mobile phone signal within distillery locations hampering communication. Wireless radio communication often becomes the chosen mode of communication.
- Limited ability to raise the alarm in the event of an accident or injury, putting lives at risk.
- Working in potentially explosive atmospheres means standard mobile phones and wireless radio systems cannot be used in these areas. Lone workers are most vulnerable then, with no means of communication or raising the alarm.
These unique risks require a robust solution that mitigates or eliminates the risk, serves as a reliable communication system and a secure means of raising the alarm.
Lone Worker Devices for Distillery Environments
The performance bar is set high when it comes to choosing the right lone worker solution for distillery environments. One system that’s proven to be robust, secure and reliable for the operating conditions present within distilleries is IP DECT. DECT is a Digitally Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications solution which uses portable handsets and a network of access points. An IP DECT system provides a powerful and clear communication alternative to native mobile systems relying on 2G, 3G or 4G networks.
DECT phones are available in a range of custom options to include intrinsically safe handsets suitable for use in potentially explosive atmospheres (ATEX). For lone workers, the handsets can have the option of a panic button and a tilt sensor to detect falls. A rugged protective shell makes the DECT phones hardy enough for the industrial environment of a working distillery.
The design of the communication network and placement of IP DECT Access Points ensure adequate coverage of an entire site, both within buildings and externally. The result is reliable communication wherever on-site your employees may be working.
IP DECT System in Practice
One of the oldest distilleries, Tamdhu were seeking to improve lone worker safety and overcome the limitations of the buddy system they were using. Add to that unreliable mobile phone communications in their remote locations, there was an urgent need to beef up the safety of employees who had to work alone on occasion.
The distillery’s choice of technology was the IP DECT handsets with DECT radio stations installed around their plant. Due to explosive atmospheres present in the distillery environment, ATEX rated DECT handsets became the default device to not only bolster communication but keep lone workers safe.
Today, the distillery has a robust general communication system and a reliable lone worker monitoring system all rolled into one. Solo workers feel safer because they know colleagues can respond quicker and know their exact location in an emergency. You can learn more about this exciting project by reading the case study here.
Make Your Distillery Safer Today
ANT Telecom is one of the UK leading providers of lone worker devices and other critical safety systems for the distillery industry. We can provide a custom solution to meet the needs of your company and employees, whether it’s lone working or improving site communications. Get in touch and find out more about the solutions available for your lone worker challenge today.