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Lone worker partners

Two Northern Ireland companies have joined forces to address the issue of lone worker safety and the potential impact it could have on businesses under corporate manslaughter law.

Guardian24, a provider of lone and mobile worker safety solutions, and Mercury Security Management, a security company, have teamed up to offer protection to vulnerable lone workers in Ireland and beyond. Pictured: Liam Cullen and Francis Cullen of Mercury, and Guardian24’s Grainne McCullagh.

According to The Office of National Statistics 2009 about 2.5 to 3.5 million lone workers are employed in the UK – a long list that would include rent collectors, postal staff, social workers, doctors, district nurses, pest control workers, drivers, engineers, architects, estate agents, sales representatives and others visiting domestic and commercial premises. Even office staff working alone late at night can be vulnerable.

A solution on offer from Guardian24 and Mercury Security allows lone workers to use their mobile phone to log their whereabouts at any time and the expected duration of their stay, or track their movements via GPS. Their mobile device also doubles up as a covert panic button which can be activated discreetly if a worker’s safety is compromised.

The service – which can be used via mobile phone, BlackBerry, Android, iPhone, Windows PDA or any specialist lone worker device – is also aimed at businesses and employers who have a duty to protect their staff or face consequences in the event of an employee being harmed on their job.

The firms point out that under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of April 2008, companies can be prosecuted for the offence of corporate manslaughter if the way its activities are managed or organised causes a death and this constitutes a gross breach of a duty of care to the deceased. Owners and senior managers of businesses can be personally prosecuted for offences related to failures in health and safety management, including gross negligence and manslaughter.

What they say

Guardian24’s Chief Executive Henry Woods said: “Guardian24 already safeguards over 33,000 people across 400 organisations in the UK and Ireland through our mobile-application for lone workers. Now, as a result of our partnership with Mercury Security Management, companies from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will benefit from having a robust and fully accredited Alarm Receiving Centre response provided by the Mercury team. Both Guardian24 and Mercury Security are fully committed to helping safeguard these individuals that work alone in vulnerable circumstances, which is why we believe that our partnership will be a great success.”

And Mercury Security Regional Director UK and Ireland Liam Cullen said: “We believe that this combined solution will provide the highest level of protection for lone workers whilst also protecting employers from potential legal action which could be extremely damaging to their business. The system allows customers to take advantage of the trend towards BYOD (bring your own device) among employees, freeing employers from the financial and time considerations inherent in device evaluation and procurement processes. Users now have a lone worker solution on the device they are comfortable and familiar with, and which they already carry at all times, safe in the knowledge that our Alarm Receiving Centre is on hand and ready to kick into action should the need arise,” concluded Liam.

How it works
The lone worker logs his or her whereabouts via their smart phone or mobile device
Leaving details of their location and the expected duration.
If their activity over-runs, Guardian24 will automatically call the worker to verify their safety.
If the user cannot be reached, a nominated respondent or Mercury’s Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) will be notified so that an agreed protocol can be put in action to verify the user’s safety and location.
Should the lone worker’s safety be compromised, they can discreetly press a dedicated key on their chosen device to summon emergency assistance – even if the keypad is locked.
At this stage Guardian24 will record live audio and immediately notify a nominated respondent or the Mercury ARC.
Guardian24 provides the user’s personal details, activity details and live audio to the respondent receiving the escalated call.
The respondent may then call the incident helpline and connect to a live feed through the user’s handset for further emergency audio. This information is invaluable if you need to notify the emergency services.
Established in 2000, Belfast-based firm Guardian24 is the UK and Ireland’s leading supplier of Lone Worker Personal Security solutions, with a track record of providing new capabilities widely adopted by others.

Founded in 2001, Mercury Security Management Ltd operates out of headquarters in Lisburn with offices in London and the Republic of Ireland. The company offers a range of services including CCTV remote monitoring, manned guarding and concierge services, key-holding and alarm response, satellite-tracked mobile patrols, staff and vehicle escort services, lone worker monitoring, vehicle and asset tracking, and training.

More from the firms on the subject of corporate manslaughter

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act came into force on 6 April 2008 and created a new offence called corporate manslaughter in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and corporate homicide in Scotland. Whilst to date there have only been three convictions the recent high profile conviction of Lion Steel where they received a fine of just under half a million pounds highlights the importance of ensuring the health and safety of your workers. Your business can be prosecuted for the offence of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by senior management causes a death and this constitutes a gross breach of a duty of care to the deceased. A substantial part of the breach must have been in the way activities were managed or organised by senior management. Owners and senior managers of businesses cannot be personally prosecuted for corporate manslaughter; however, they can be personally prosecuted for other offences related to failures in health and safety management. These include gross negligence, manslaughter and health and safety offences. The corporate manslaughter legislation does not change this. Prosecutions against individuals will continue to be taken where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so. Indeed, it is likely that a prosecution will be brought for corporate manslaughter against a company in tandem with prosecutions against individual directors or senior management for personal liability. Penalties for corporate manslaughter include unlimited fines, remedial orders and publicity orders. A remedial order will require a company or organisation to take steps to remedy any management failure that led to a death. The court can also impose an order requiring the company or organisation to publicise that it has been convicted of the offence, giving the details, the amount of any fine imposed and the terms of any remedial order made. The Sentencing Guidelines Council published guidance in 2010 suggesting that for corporate manslaughter the appropriate fine will seldom be less than £500,000 and may be measured in millions of pounds. For this reason, all businesses must carefully examine their health and safety training, policies and provision to ensure that the highest standards are met to avoid potential corporate manslaughter charges and to ensure that senior management do not face personal liability.

Corporate manslaughter test

Juries will consider how activities that led to the fatal accident were managed or organised throughout your business, including any systems and processes for managing health and safety, how these were operated in practice and the failures that occurred. A substantial part of the failure must have been at senior level, i.e. the people in your business who make significant decisions about it or substantial parts of it. This includes both centralised, headquarters functions as well as those in operational management roles. To be in ‘gross’ breach of a duty of care, your business’ conduct must have fallen far below what could have been reasonably expected in the circumstances’. Juries will also take into account any health and safety breaches by the organisation – and how serious and dangerous those failures were. A possible defence will be where the business can show that it had taken all reasonable steps and precautions to prevent an accident.

Duty of care

Your business has duties of care that it should meet, for example in respect of:

• the systems of work and equipment used by employees

• the condition of worksites and other premises occupied by your business

• products or services supplied to customers

The corporate manslaughter legislation does not create new duties – they are already owed in the civil law of negligence and in health and safety law, and the offence is based on these. Some of these duties of care will be particularly complex where employees work from home or are lone workers. It will be difficult to monitor compliance with Health and Safety policies or to be aware of potentially dangerous situations. It is essential that businesses with lone workers obtain professional advice and guidance in respect of the health and safety requirements of lone workers.

Complying with the legislation

All employers must already comply with health and safety legislation and the Corporate Manslaughter Act does not affect those requirements. However, the introduction of the criminal offence of corporate manslaughter should encourage you to ensure that your systems and processes for managing health and safety are adequate. You should make sure that your business has senior management that lead and seek to manage health and safety effectively. Employers have responsibility for the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees. They are also responsible for the health and safety of those affected by work activities, for example any self-employed people they engage and visitors such as contractors. These responsibilities cannot be transferred to any other person, including those people who work alone. It is the employer’s duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary. Companies and organisations that take their obligations under health and safety law seriously are not likely to be in breach of the new provisions. Nonetheless, companies and organisations must keep their health and safety management systems under review, in particular, the way in which their activities are managed or organised by senior management. Procedures must be put in place to monitor lone workers to help keep them healthy and safe.


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