Location Tracking: Integral to Lone Workers’ Safety

By: Gen Handley, Contributor

In 1887, German physicist Heinrich Hertz first created electromagnetic waves. This was significant for several reasons, but within an occupational-safety context, Hertz’s work is the primary reason we have accurate location tracking through wireless transmissions—whether that’s local wi-fi networks accessible almost everywhere, or cellular GPS and satellite technology that can locate a worker anywhere in the world.

Tracking employees’ locations has become a controversial topic; it’s contentious because of differences in opinion on when and how employees should be monitored. What’s important to note is that location monitoring is not based on keeping a close eye on the activities of employees. Instead, location monitoring is primarily focused on the location of an employee, so help can be sent to the correct location in an emergency.

When performed and planned properly, real-time location tracking can become a major benefit to your team and organization, in multiple areas.

The Nature of Lone Working

Lone workers operate in various sectors, such as healthcare, social services, utilities and energy, to name a few. These professionals often find themselves working in remote or hazardous environments with limited supervision or immediate assistance. Their job roles require them to face unique risks, including accidents, injuries, medical emergencies or even potential security threats. The absence of colleagues or co-workers nearby makes it crucial to have effective safety measures in place; accurate, real-time location tracking proves to be a valuable tool for managing these risks.

Types of Location Tracking Technology and Devices

A GPS map on the SafetyLine web app displaying the location of a worker. (photo courtesy SafetyLine)

GPS and satellite tracking devices

When “location tracking” is mentioned, GSP and satellite-tracking devices probably come to mind. Standing for “global positioning system,” GPS utilizes at least four of its 24 satellites to effectively locate people working in remote locations without access to cellular and wi-fi networks. GPS systems and satellite-tracking devices are highly accurate and able to locate a person within a five-meter (16-foot) radius.

Radio frequency identification (RFID)

RFID is a system that uses different radio frequencies to transfer data, such as the location of a person working alone. RFID systems can track an employee with high accuracy (within 10-300 feet) and in real-time. It uses a transponder which can range in size from a “grain of pepper to the size of a brick;” accuracy can also depend on the size of the receiving antenna.

Cellular locating technology

Cellular locating technology is a powerful tool for ensuring the safety of lone workers. By utilizing cellular networks, this technology enables organizations to accurately track the location of their employees, even in areas with limited GPS or wi-fi coverage. Cellular locating technology leverages the existing infrastructure of mobile networks, allowing for seamless and widespread coverage.

Location sharing

With a Google account and smartphone, employees can share their location in real-time for a specific time period. Likewise, devices also have location tracking apps, such as for the iPhone, which can use the Find My app to locate employees or the Family Locator for Android. Unlike location-tracking apps and devices, these options need to be manually implemented and are at risk of mistakes that could lead to a life-threatening injury.

Smartphone apps

Smartphone apps, like SafetyLine, can revolutionize the way organizations track the location of their lone workers. These apps leverage the ubiquity and functionality of smartphones to provide accurate and real-time location tracking capabilities using cellular GPS and have features that allow satellite GPS for a full spectrum of connectivity—even without cell service—that ensures lone workers are constantly monitored and protected.

The convenience of using smartphones allows for easy implementation and widespread adoption of location tracking systems. Lone workers can carry a single device that not only serves as a communication tool, but also provides essential safety features, giving them a sense of security while on the job. Additionally, smartphone apps often come with user-friendly interfaces and customizable settings, making it seamless for organizations to tailor the tracking system to their specific needs.

The integration of smartphone apps into lone worker safety protocols enhances efficiency; improves emergency response times; and ultimately contributes to the overall safety and well-being of those working alone.

The SafetyLine app on iPhone displays a GPS map with the location of the worker with checked-in status; next check-in status; and in-app notification alerts. (photo courtesy SafetyLine)

Benefits of Location Tracking

Increased safety and emergency response

With the variety of different location-tracking options comes the greater capacity to improve the safety of lone workers  by providing the correct locations of these people in emergencies. If the employer or emergency responder knows where the lone worker is located, help can be provided to the injured person more quickly. If a worker needs help from a remote location, real-time location tracking can save invaluable minutes and hours.

Less stress, more peace of mind

For the lone worker, the knowledge that their well-being is a priority, and they are “being watched over” can reduce stress—thus benefiting their mental health and the work itself. Likewise, for the employer or manager, knowing they can easily locate workers in an emergency provides some valuable peace of mind.

Increased productivity

The data collected through location tracking during work hours can be used to optimize the productivity of lone workers in different locations. Analyzing the location-tracking information of your team can reveal where more work hours can be better allocated to increase productivity—or meet other objectives, such as improved employee wellness or improved work quality.

Lower costs

When you invest in OHS technologies like location tracking, it can improve your operations by being able to provide data more accessibly so issues can be resolved faster. This data allows employers to make more informed decisions on employee safety as well as business. Additionally, costs will be lower, because one employee only is needed.

When an employee is injured, it can be a serious physical and emotional injury that might require time to heal. The operational costs of an injury can be significant to your team members and human resources, potentially requiring a temporary worker to fill in. When you consider this type of impact, the return on investment for location tracking can be high and well worth it.

Location Tracking & Workers’ Rights

Location and GPS tracking of employees has experienced some controversy due to its ability to breach a person’s privacy, as well as track where they go during both work and non-work hours. However, documenting consent from the employee will proactively protect the employer from litigation and the employee from any breach of their private, personal information. Employee monitoring laws may vary from each state, so make sure you thoroughly research any laws or regulations that apply to your industry and employees.

Safety and Responsibility

In an era where technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, organizations cannot afford to overlook the importance of accurate, real-time location tracking for their lone workers. By investing in these solutions, businesses can significantly enhance the safety and well-being of their employees. From improved emergency response times to increased worker accountability, the benefits of accurate location are myriad.

Location tracking of a lone worker is not a tool to manage their activities and tasks throughout the shift. It is a valuable resource that can improve your company’s occupational health and safety—as well as operations and your employees’ job satisfaction, happiness and commitment.

Gen Handley is Marketing and Growth Coordinator with SafetyLine.

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