Using Personal Safety Devices to Protect Lone Workers

Considering deploying personal safety devices to protect your organization’s lone and remote workers? This guide details everything you need to know to get started.

What is a Personal Safety Device?

A personal safety device is any portable object or wearable item that can be used to improve the safety of lone workers. Personal safety devices for lone workers can include a range of features, such as panic alarms, check-in systems, GPS tracking, and communication tools. They are designed to provide employees with an extra level of security when working alone, in isolation, or remote locations. Personal safety devices can help organizations manage, monitor, and report on employees’ locations, activities, and well-being in real-time.

Types of Personal Safety Devices

There are three main types of personal safety devices to consider for lone workers:

Lone Worker Safety Apps 

Lone worker safety apps (such as SHEQSY by SafetyCulture) are the most versatile and effective safety solutions. Typically, lone worker safety apps include features such as panic alarms, automated/periodic check-ins, overtime alerts, and GPS monitoring. Many lone worker safety apps can also integrate with Bluetooth and satellite devices to create a fully customizable solution while feeding critical real-time safety and activity data into one unified management dashboard. Lone worker safety apps are a cost-effective solution since they can be deployed across employees’ existing smartphones.

Bluetooth Devices  

Bluetooth safety devices, such as panic buttons and personal alarms (that can be worn as wristwatches and lanyards), enable lone workers to quickly and discreetly activate their duress, letting their emergency contact(s) know that they need assistance. Some devices also enable employees to check in and extend their activity timers. 

Bluetooth devices are best used in conjunction with an overarching lone worker safety solution. That way, managers can view data such as employee location, activity type, and more within their management dashboard. Bluetooth devices are typically inexpensive.

Handheld Satellite Devices 

Handheld satellite devices are primarily deployed across lone-working teams based in remote locations outside of mobile phone coverage. Via these devices, lone workers can typically activate panic alarms, share location, and sometimes send 1:1 messages. Handheld satellite devices are the most expensive personal security devices, and they also work best when integrated with a comprehensive lone worker system.

Why Do Lone Workers Need Personal Safety Devices?

Comprehensive personal safety solutions can offer various benefits for both employers and employees.

Increase Employee Safety

Of course, personal safety devices can increase employee safety—and everyone deserves to feel safe at work.

According to Safe Work Australia, “Working alone or remotely can increase the health and safety risks of any job.”

Deploying personal safety devices can help mitigate common lone worker risks, such as “violence in the workplace, stress, and mental health or well-being, a person’s medical suitability to work alone, [and] the workplace itself,” by enabling employees to quickly and easily activate their duress and receive assistance in dangerous situations.

Comply with Government Requirements

More and more, governments worldwide are enacting laws and recommendations that require organizations to safeguard lone workers.

For example, the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive‘s guide, Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone, recommends implementing a lone worker solution for monitoring and staying connected with lone workers. Their recommended solutions include:

  • supervisors periodically visiting and observing people working alone;
  • pre-agreed intervals of regular contact between the lone worker and employer, using phones, radios, email, etc.;
  • other devices designed to raise the alarm in an emergency, which can be operated manually or automatically;
  • implementing a robust system to ensure a lone worker has returned to their base or home once their work is completed. 

In addition, in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) code 1915.84 – Working alone states, “whenever an employee is working alone, such as in a confined space or isolated location, the employer shall account for each employee throughout each workshift at regular intervals appropriate to the job assignment to ensure the employee’s safety and health; and at the end of the job assignment or at the end of the workshift, whichever occurs first.”

Deploying personal safety products across lone-working teams can help organizations comply with legal requirements and reduce exposure.

Simplify Lone Worker Management

The best personal safety devices and systems make lone worker safety and management easy.

A system that enables managers to monitor, manage, and report on lone workers’ activities and well-being in real time—via one central, cloud-based, and user-friendly dashboard—is ideal.

For example—as employees use their smartphone apps and/or integrated Bluetooth and satellite devices—from the SHEQSY Dashboard, managers can: 

  • view employees’ real-time locations with activity count-down timers; 
  • send out roll call requests and emergency notifications; 
  • manage duress events (managers can be notified of emergencies via automated calls, text messages, and emails); 
  • run detailed activity and app utilization reports; 
  • view employees’ hazard reports, form and checklist responses, and location notes; 
  • schedule appointments and jobs into employees’ calendars (via integrations with Google Calendar, Outlook, and others); 
  • configure unique teams and emergency escalation responses; and more.

Which Workers Require Personal Safety Devices?

A lone worker is an individual who works alone, in isolation, or a remote location, typically without supervision or backup support.

Examples of employees who may require personal safety devices include:

  • Nurses and other medical workers
  • Elderly and special needs carers
  • Agriculture and forestry workers
  • Social workers
  • Nonprofit/charity outreach workers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Security guards
  • Real estate agents
  • Utility maintenance staff
  • Construction workers
  • Commercial cleaners
  • Repair staff
  • Remote office workers

Must-Have Personal Safety Device Features

On the most basic level, all personal safety devices must have these two features:

  • Quick and easy duress/panic alarm activation
  • Real-time GPS location sharing

Generally speaking, all of the above safety device types offer these features.

Other Key Features

Beyond panic alarms and GPS, there are a number of other useful safety and management features to look out for:

  • Periodic check-ins
  • Overtime alerts
  • Hazard, near-miss, and incident reporting
  • Location notes
  • Roll call and emergency notifications
  • 1:1 messaging
  • Safety forms, checklists, and questionnaires
  • Customizable emergency escalation procedures
  • Optional third-party security monitoring
  • Navigation
  • Calendar scheduling
  • Detailed reporting
  • Easy integration with other digital tools, devices, and hardware

All of these innovative safety and management features can be found within comprehensive lone worker safety apps such as SHEQSY.

Using Personal Safety Devices for Lone Workers

Deploying personal safety devices across lone-working teams sounds great in theory. But what about in practice?

Here’s what health and safety managers have to say about the leading lone worker safety app, SHEQSY, which is primarily deployed as a smartphone app (for iOS & Android) and integrates with various Bluetooth and satellite devices to offer a fully customizable safety solution.

  • After reviewing a wide range of safety options for Epworth’s employees, this organization concluded that SHEQSY was “by far the best available, in terms of functionality and price. SHEQSY not only allows my employees to utilize an existing device, but it also provides a quick panic option, avoiding the hassle of having to unlock a phone in an emergency. Since using SHEQSY, employees report that they feel much more secure knowing that they have SHEQSY monitoring their sessions. As a manager, I find it much easier to track the productivity and safety of my employees when working in the community.” – Jeremy Buckmaster, Community Rehabilitation Manager, Epworth HealthCare. Read the full case study here.
  • “SHEQSY gives us peace of mind that our providers in the community have an easy-to-use tool that helps to keep them safe. Our providers use the shift feature of the app, turning it on each morning and off at the end of the day. This allows us to have oversight of where they are and, if required, their last-known location without extra workload or actions for our providers to do throughout the day. The Dashboard is easy to use and the reports are useful to track utilisation of the app overall. Roll call allows us to send notifications to users. We’ve recently used this during a weather event which caused extensive flooding and we were able to reach out to our providers and check in with them. SHEQSY’s ease of use and ability to use it in different ways to suit your organisation and workforce’s needs make it a great health and safety tool.” – Verity Abdat, Head of Quality and Compliance, TBI Health
  • “With a significant number of our staff performing outreach appointments in the community and in clients’ homes, having an appointment overtime alert function provides our organisation with peace of mind that the welfare of our staff is being monitored for each of their appointments. Being able to export data from the Dashboard on our organisation’s app utilization, about the number of users and their activity trends, has helped us with our business modelling. SHEQSY is easy to use and integrates with Outlook appointments, which is not only convenient, but saves our staff time not duplicating appointments on the SHEQSY app and Outlook. The SHEQSY team are very responsive and really helpful with supporting our teams.” – Natalie Poulsen, Health Safety and Wellbeing Partner, Mind Australia

FAQs: Personal Safety Devices for Lone Workers

When you think of personal protection devices, pepper spray, stun guns, and tasers may come to mind. These devices are easy to carry and, therefore, are great personal protection devices to bring with you when you are alone, whether at work or not. 

Carrying a personal security alarm system is a great option too. A personal alarm can come in the form of a panic button app, a lone worker alarm (specifically designed for employees who work alone), an SOS button, or a Bluetooth panic button, among others.

Safety devices fall into two different categories: traditional devices and digital devices. Each type has its own use case. 

Traditional safety devices (which are typically used for self-defense against attackers) include instruments such as pepper spray, stun guns, tasers, strobe lights, bright lights, and sound alarms. 

On the other hand, digital safety devices (which are often used in the workplace to keep solo employees safe) include tools, such as smartphone safety apps, panic buttons, and even handheld satellite devices. They typically keep track of the user’s GPS location, and can alert authorities, emergency contacts, or workplace managers (via automated text message, calling, email, and more) in the event of an emergency. Some digital solutions also have automated check-in prompts and overtime alerting features.

No personal safety alarm is guaranteed to work 100% of the time. However, personal safety alarms can help users be better prepared for unexpected emergencies and dangerous situations, call for help when necessary, and lower the users’ risk of experiencing serious, potentially life-threatening incidents. Carrying a personal safety alarm can also help users feel safe and confident, instilling a sense of peace of mind. Using a personal safety alarm is a simple precaution that can help safeguard against various situations.

The best personal safety alarm for lone workers is SHEQSY. SHEQSY is a comprehensive lone worker safety solution that protects employees with real-time GPS location tracking, quick and discreet panic alarms, overtime alerts, automated check-ins, safety forms and checklists, and more. 

SHEQSY can be deployed via the SHEQSY lone worker app, as well as integrated Bluetooth wearables and handheld satellite devices. Via the SHEQSY Dashboard, managers can monitor, manage, and report on lone workers’ activities in realtime. SHEQSY’s 24/7 security monitoring center can escalate duress events according to your organization’s safety policies and procedures, or your organization can manage duress events in-house via automated calls, text messages, and email notifications.

SafetyCulture Content Team
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SafetyCulture Content Team
SafetyCulture Content Team
The SafetyCulture content team is dedicated to providing high-quality, easy-to-understand information to help readers understand complex topics and improve workplace safety and quality. Our team of writers have extensive experience at producing articles for different fields such as safety, quality, health, and compliance.