Safety Solutions: How New Technology Protects Isolated Employees

September 15, 2022 • Missouri Employers Mutual

Technology plays a huge role in our lives today. Whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay. Using technology in the workplace can have multiple benefits. For example, streamlining processes, increasing productivity and even predicting outcomes. Most importantly, today technology can save lives.

On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, we welcome Serese Selanders, founder and CEO of SolusGuard. Her company provides safety solutions using technology, focusing on employees that work alone or in isolated situations. She has more than 20 years of experience as a senior executive in banking and financial services. She now pursues her passion of leveraging technology to keep people safe.

First, we’ll talk about why safety solutions are important for those who work in isolated areas. Then, we’ll share how technology bridges gaps in safety. Finally, we’ll discuss how employers can introduce these new solutions to their teams.

Listen to this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.

Remote safety solutions: Not just for senior citizens

Selanders’ journey into safety solutions was inspired by her father. He became ill during her time in the financial sector. As he was getting older and had been unwell, her family wanted a solution to keep him safe. But outside of standard medical alert devices, there didn’t seem to be many options. So Selanders set to work creating something new.

Her technology grew beyond the use of just senior citizens. Businesses found that her solutions were ideal for their employees, too. “My passion originally started with keeping my dad safe,” she explained, “But over time has evolved to broaden to many more people in many different circumstances.”

The risks of working alone

Working alone is a common task across different industries. Without a team, workplace – or even a phone handy – how can employers know when an employee is in trouble? Employee who work in remote locations, such as in agriculture or utilities, are usually the first to come to mind.

But the same dangers apply to unpredictable workplaces. This includes people who work with the public, high-risk individuals or in high-risk situations. For example, she points to roles like residential property managers, parole officers and even reporters. “It’s a situation of the person is working alone. They get hurt. They get attacked,” Selanders said. How do these employees connect to help?

Producing safety solutions

“We’ve got all these people in these dangerous jobs, and a situation happens where they need to call for help quickly,” Selanders shared. “A lot of people think, ‘Well, they’ve already got their smartphone. Why don’t they just pick up the phone and call?’” But calling for help isn’t always a simple process. For instance, politicians and company executives are often surrounded by security teams. But if trouble appears, how do they signal for help?

Emergency situations don’t always work out the way we imagine them to. In a high-risk situation, an employee may have their phone taken, or be unable to say anything once they’ve placed a call. An injured worker may not be able to reach or unlock their phone. Even the threat of severe weather can take employees by surprise. At SolusGuard, Selanders works to produce safety solutions that solve for these issues, such as:

  • Panic buttons. These are worn so that an employee always has access to help on their person.
  • Safety apps with countdown timers. Employees can trigger a countdown timer when they sense danger. If nothing happens, then they can cancel the timer. But if something does, help has been called – no explanation required.
  • SOS phone widgets. These mobile shortcuts allow employees to access help from their coworkers, managers or safety staff.

Selanders encourages companies to use these tools, even if they have 24/7 dispatch or security teams. “We provide those individuals with the tools to not track, but monitor, and be there in the event somebody has missed a checkout or presses the panic button.”

Seeing safety solutions in action

The usefulness of a tech safety solution is sometimes underestimated – until companies see it in action. Selanders recalls a property management business who saw theirs put to use. One of their property manager was assaulted on the job. She used a panic button to scare her attacker away. Further, it was able to send a signal for help.

While the attacked employee had both mental and physical recovery to go through, she returned to the job sooner. She was confident that she had personal protection that worked. In addition, the company came through the incident investigation in a positive light. Despite the attack, they proved they were committed to employee safety. No fines or penalties were issued.

Putting safety solutions in place that work for your business

Whether an employee is working alone in a remote area or a metro city, safety solutions are important. They need to be protected no matter where they go. This is where technology lends a hand. But how do employers figure out the right fit for their teams?

Determine what your team needs

Selanders recommends taking stock of employees that are at risk. Where is their work environment? What potential threats do they face? If they need to call for help, how would they do it? This isn’t just a conversation for leadership. Employees need to be included, too. Introducing technology not only needs planning and a budget, but employee buy-in. She finds this is essential for any business, but especially larger organizations.

“We can all agree that employees are much more productive when they feel safe,” she added. “So talking to them and asking them about their feelings of safety on the job is another way to start. We know that if they can’t focus at the job on hand because they’re not feeling safe, then they’re not being productive, which is not good for the organization. So first step always is to create a safe work environment.”

Choose tech that is easy to use

There are dozens of safety tech solutions out there. For example, ones that are worn, like body cameras, or downloaded on computers. It can be overwhelming for employers to make a choice. But Selanders shared an important reminder: “Safety technology is only going to keep people safe if they use it.”

“If there’s anything that I think I’ve learned over time is that whatever technology or solution that you choose, it has to be the right fit for your organization,” Selanders commented. “It has to be simple and easy to use.” Employers can use this rule of thumb when choosing from several options. Simple and easy-to-use solutions keep people safe.

Pilot new solutions

When introducing a new solution, plan time for teams to test and try new technology. Does it work as advertised? Do you have the right phone or computer systems to use it? Are employees having problems making it work? A few weeks of practice time helps determine if the tech is the right fit for the workplace, sometimes before a significant investment is made, to give it to other teams or business locations. It can also reveal if there are other needs – or unexpected benefits.

Just get started

Trying new things, especially when it comes to technology, can be a challenge. “Like anything, whether that’s joining the gym, eating healthy, anything like that – the hardest part is always starting,” Selanders finished. “If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, or you’re saying ‘I’m not tech-savvy, I don’t know what I’m doing’ – whatever the barrier is for you, just get started. Get a small team together. Think about what your gaps are, what your needs are, and start reaching out to organizations and talking to them.”

For free safety posters, sample policies, and safety toolkits, visit our Resource Library. Then, learn how to prepare your business for potential workplace violence in this WorkSAFE Podcast episode.

September 15, 2022
Missouri Employers Mutual
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