Personal safety devices play a critical role in lone worker safety and can save lives in an emergency. False alarms however, cause unnecessary worry, particularly for employers trying to track down a member of staff to make sure they are safe.
Although it’s impossible to eradicate the issue completely, users should aim to limit the number of false activations and ensure they know what to do if an alarm is set off by accident, so this can be dealt with swiftly.
It’s important to get it right from the start. Select a device that strikes a balance, making it easy to raise an alert but not so much so that this happens on its own accord. Ideally the best solution would require employees to press and hold a button for an extended period of time. If possible, it’s recommended to try before you buy so you can see how a device will perform in your working environment. There are plenty of options available on the market that allow a free trial before you commit.
User error is a common reason for false activations and those who are unfamiliar with a device are more likely to set it off by mistake. Therefore, guidance on how to operate devices correctly and avoid false alarms should be given to all users. They must be informed of best practice for example, not placing their device in a bag or pocket full of objects that could press against the activation button.
Devices with fall alarms use special sensors to detect impact, the idea being if a user slips or trips the unit will automatically raise an alarm. However, dropping the device can trick it into thinking the user has fallen, thus creating a false activation. If your lone worker device has a ‘mandown’ feature with adjustable sensitivity it’s important to ensure that it is set to an appropriate level so that this does not go off unwantedly. For those doing physical work, devices should always be worn securely on a belt clip rather that round the neck, where they may swing about.
Some alarms allow you to set a timer which triggers after a certain period of time if not cancelled manually. The danger is that staff have a tendency to underestimate how much time a task will take or forget to close down timers. Employees should be encouraged to adopt good habits, including remembering to turn off their timer if a meeting finishes early.
If false alarms are occurring regularly then it’s advised to keep a log so you can identify if there are any common occurrences cropping up e.g. the same sort of incident or a specific person responsible for false alarms. This will help you work out if there’s a pattern to false activations which could give an indication as to how these could be prevented.
Make sure that staff know what to do should they set their alarm off accidentally. Often users will panic and try to switch a device off. However, this makes matters worse as alarms will still register but it makes it harder to get in touch with the user to confirm they are ok. Staff should have a clear way of informing Controllers of a false activation, for example using a simple phrase such as ‘activation call’ will suffice.
Ensuring that staff contact details are accurate and kept updated helps Controllers to track down an employee much faster in the event of an alarm being triggered.
It’s important to check your lone worker device regularly and perform test calls to ensure everything is working as it should so you can raise any issues with your supplier. For Skyguard devices we recommend that users do this every 3-4 months.