Under UK law, it’s an employer's duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business and do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
Field service industries have an increased risk associated with them and require extra planning and preparation. The construction and agricultural industries are two of the most dangerous for field workers to operate in. Construction accounts for the highest number of overall fatalities at work, whilst agriculture has the highest per-capita rate in the UK.
Workers are 20 times more likely to be killed at work in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors than the average for all other industry sectors combined. Despite representing just 1 per cent of the total workforce, the agricultural sector is responsible for 20 per cent of all fatalities at work.
Employers in field service industries, which also includes utilities and telecommunications, rely on having the right technology measures in place to protect their workers and fulfil these obligations.
Examples range from regular communication with a remote worker for wellbeing checks and to monitor their location and potential risk exposure, to maintaining safe work practices in and around vehicles such as speed and hours on the road.
In fact, as an industry, field services often adopt new technology quicker than others. So, what can businesses do to ensure the correct management and security of this technology and the safety of their field workers when they are out on the road?
1. Integrated mobility strategy
The manual management of mobile field devices is not enough to ensure mobility remains integrated, secure, cost-effective, and optimised to deliver the best performance, as well as worker safety in the field.
Businesses need a single, integrated mobility strategy to manage their mobile device ecosystem as simply as possible, by having real-time visibility and control of every single endpoint from deployment to management, and monitoring to maintenance, which will keep workers working.
One example of this is a UK-based infrastructure support services company responsible for multi-billion-pound public and regulated sector projects – which relies on its large and disparate mobile field-force that spend most of their time away from the company’s depots. It rolled out an integrated mobility strategy that provided fully centralised visibility and control of all company mobile devices out in the field.
This allowed the company to track the location of all field workers, monitor device status and enabled the remote control of any device at a click to ensure the safety of its increasing number of workers in the field. Location services mean all field workers are accounted for and any safety risks at particular locations can be communicated and monitored. GPS tracking allowed the company to guide field workers on the best route to take when travelling by road, warn them about any traffic issues or monitor if their workers are involved in any traffic incidents.
2. Remote device management
Managers should be able to remotely fix devices, restrict app access, for example when a vehicle is in motion, optimise device connectivity and initiate easy updates. At the same time, managers should be able to deploy geo-fences to block out non-critical applications and prevent disruptions to field workers. By implementing solutions that allow businesses to lock down devices or applications based on vehicle speed, it can help reduce risks to organisations and field workers by enabling lockdown/kiosk mode, which limits the functionality of mobile devices on the road.
Field service managers and dispatchers also need to know where their field workers are and the status of each call that is scheduled or completed. Knowing where the worker is, enables quick re-scheduling or a high priority diversion. In addition, GPS functionality provides field workers with an optimised travel route and call schedule.
3. Data security
Businesses need to ensure their field workers can access data, technology and support from anywhere, to help ensure their safety at work. The use of integrated mobile solutions to provide safety information and report on any incidents will also enable businesses to make any necessary improvements quickly.
However, employers need to ensure that these employees are accessing business-critical technology and data in a secure way. Businesses need to feel comfortable that their workers are accessing these tools securely and that there is no risk of compromising data.
Investing in a business-critical solution that allows organisations to create integrated mobility management solutions securely, by providing centralised user authentication, single sign-on and role management functionality, will enable businesses to ensure the security of data being accessed by field workers.
By ensuring field technology is integrated and remotely accessible by employers, whilst being secure, employers can fulfil their obligations of keeping their employees safe whilst out in the field and give them the tools and information they need to carry out their jobs to the best of their ability. Communication in any industry aids productivity as well as health and safety and is crucial if a business is to thrive.
Stefan Spendrup, Vice President of Sales Northern and Western Europe, SOTI