Health, safety and service for utility companies
Utility companies provide water, gas, electric and sewage services across the UK - those lone workers who help supply, maintain and repair these services hold some of the most important jobs in lone working. Think about lone workers repairing downed power lines in an industry where 2.5 million people were affected by outages in 2015, or workers resolving issues with water supply, where 325 serious pollution incidents were noted in in the same year.
Empowering lone workers in the utility sector to work safely is integral in ensuring the UK’s 60.8 million population do not experience disruption or issues with their gas, electric, water and sewage services.
Keeping your lone workers safe as a utility company is a legal and moral duty as an employer, and doing so is extremely important in avoiding litigation too. Electricity North West were fined £900,000 for the death of John Flowers, an experienced linesman who fell six metres from a ladder while attempting to remove ivy from overhead power lines. Electricity North West were found guilty of breaching regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. While they were cleared of a charge of failing to carry out a risk assessment, the verdict showed that more can be done to protect those employed by utility companies, especially those working alone.
Start by conducting risk assessments and develop a strong, simple lone worker policy so that you can prepare for potential incidents and outline the responsibilities of both your organisation and your lone workers.
Whether they are repairing power lines or testing water supplies, taking responsibility for your lone working staff is crucial in delivering good standards of service and ensuring your customers receive the vital utilities they need without disruption. In short, good safety is good service and practicing great standards of safety means you can be more effective as a utility supplier.
Safe staff = more jobs completed
Property visits, site maintenance and repairs are just some of the jobs that lone workers in the utility sector will carry out. The performance of vital and often time sensitive tasks can be a source of friction with customers and in some circumstances, can lead to violence or other safety concerns. Failing to keep your lone workers safe not only puts them at greater risk but can lead to incomplete or rushed jobs - not a great experience for customers either.
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s housing division reported that, after taking steps to address violence against lone workers, more jobs were completed because staff felt safer and did not avoid doing them. Furthermore, tenants were more satisfied because they received quick and effective services. By taking positive action to improve safety, the housing division were also able to deliver better service. Win win!
Safe staff = less working days lost
Reducing incidents and improving both physical and mental wellbeing means less absenteeism, less injury and less lost working hours. In 2017, 30.7 million working days were lost due to ill-health and non-fatal workplace injuries. Improving safety for your lone workers reduces potential for stress and damage to mental health too.
BT - an organisation with over 100,000 employees - looked to find a way to improve employee wellbeing and reduce stress. They developed a targeted strategy to reduce stress at source, by redesigning the workplace and job design and taking practical approaches to reach their employees with a positive mentality campaign.
According to their case study conducted with the HSE: “over the past four to five years, the sickness absence rate due to mental health problems has fallen by 30% despite pressured market conditions. BT now gets almost 80% of people who have been off for more than six months with mental illness back into their own jobs, compared with 20% nationally.”
Customer happiness and employee happiness go hand in hand
The positive effects of keeping your lone workers safe are far reaching, and beyond the reduction of incidents and injury, improving the mental health of your workers by making them feel valued, supported and safer has long term business benefits.
Happier, less stressed workers can do their jobs more effectively, help your organisation deliver a better customer service experience and demonstrate that you are a socially responsible employer.
Take a positive step towards ensuring the safety of your lone working utility staff and providing better customer service with Safepoint, the intelligent and usable lone worker solution.