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Technology improving lone worker monitoring

The need to deliver cost savings has had a major impact on the way that workforces are structured, and an increasing number of people in the rail industry are now lone working for at least some aspect of their job. Nigel Gray, director of PageOne Communications, discusses how technology is helping employers improve safety and meet their duty of care to lone worker operatives.

ith a large mobile workforce operating across the UK, the drive for productivity and effi ciency gains has led to more railway staff working alone, unsupervised and often in remote locations, which brings additional challenges and responsibilities in delivering a duty of care to staff and contractors.


Simple check-in type processes whereby staff regularly call-in to confi rm their whereabouts have traditionally formed the basis of lone- worker monitoring. This serves the purpose but carries signifi cant process overhead and responsibility, particularly when you consider the number of staff who could be working alone across the railway at any one time.

New mobile and location technology is now beginning to demonstrate signifi cant benefi ts in the management and monitoring of

and monitoring of remote staff. In particular, the ability to confi rm a Mobile-network location triangulation between

uses a form of the

operator’s radio-masts to give an approximate location of the mobile user. This works on all handset types and though absolute

accuracy resource, this for is less than with GPS, it is usually

than with GPS, it is usually suffi cient to assist in managing fi eld


identifying which engineer is nearest to an incident. In some cases

reduced accuracy

even brings with it another surprising benefi t. The location granularity isn’t considered precise enough to be viewed as intrusive ‘tracking’


has therefore been shown to encounter less staff resistance.

Network Rail Network Rail operates a

control room responsible for managing track-access for rail infrastructure


and projects, which as well as validating and authorising track-access, also undertakes lone

worker monitoring for

staff and contractors working trackside. It has been operating

46 | rail technology magazine Dec/Jan 13 TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

worker’s location in the event of an incident is helping direct the emergency services as part of an urgent response.

The two main technologies available locating staff in the fi eld are GPS satellite- based and mobile-network cell-based location services. GPS positioning uses a network of orbiting satellites to determine a user’s location down to a few metres. However there are trade- offs in battery-life (continuous tracking is very battery-intensive) and mobile-data usage (the handset uses the mobile data network to return its location).

The two main technologies for PageOne has been working closely with

Network Rail in assessing and piloting the use of mobile messaging and location services in improving the safety and monitoring of lone workers. A dedicated smartphone app includes a ‘Lone Worker’ mode which, when activated, requires a regular periodic acknowledgement from the user, without which an emergency SOS alert is generated.

GPS also requires line-of-sight to satellites and hence may not work indoors, in tunnels or trackside location rooms. Plus, not all mobile handsets are equipped with a GPS-receiver.

SOS alerts include the user’s location and are displayed within a mapping console which also references known track-access points.

within a mapping console which also

This technology improves and streamlines lone worker monitoring by eliminating the overhead of manual phone-call check-in processes as well as helping direct the emergency services to the scene of an incident. Gaining staff acceptance required the necessary assurance on system access, use and data security as well as an opt-in process to retain an element of staff control. Of course the lone workers themselves also tend to have a vested self-interest in their location being known in the event of an incident or emergency.

Knowing the whereabouts of remote staff is an increasingly critical component in the effective management of lone worker personnel and employees who may traditionally have been wary of location monitoring are increasingly recognising that when used in a specifi c and controlled manner, such services can improve their own safety and welfare.

Given the continued need to drive effi ciencies and improve staff safety, mobile and location technology can deliver

demonstrable improvements in the management and welfare of lone workers, as well as day-to-day operations.

Nigel Gray

a telephone-based lone worker check-in process for some time but recognised the potential for technology to improve and streamline Lone Worker monitoring.

lone worker check-in process

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