The lone danger

31 July 2017

​Cleaning operatives often work unsociable hours and alone placing them in potentially dangerous situations, and risking the reputation of the individual and business employing them. New security solutions mean it doesn’t have to be that way, says Neil Ricketts, technical director at Trigion

Lone workers will unfortunately always make an easier target for abuse, attack and false accusations than those working with colleagues. With no witnesses, criminals feel emboldened and the lone worker more vulnerable. 

Justin Madders, a shadow health minister, speaking during a debate about the increasing number of attacks on NHS medical staff, said that although accident and emergency departments are often the focus, an attack on a senior occupational therapist demonstrated how the risk of physical assault was higher for staff working alone. That risk is shared by cleaning operatives and anyone else working alone, especially during unsociable hours. 

Even when not working alone, a cleaning operative can be subject to attack. A shopper in Bristol has recently been banned from a local supermarket and handed a community order by magistrates after hurling racist abuse at a store cleaner. Thankfully on this occasion there were security guards present to ensure threats of violence could not be carried out. 

Manned guards provide essential support in many situations, but they aren’t always the most appropriate option in every circumstance. Thankfully cost-effective proactive electronic security solutions are now more readily available and can be tailored for any eventuality. 

Top priority

Anyone employing cleaning operatives has a duty of care for their employees and the priority must be ensuring they can work safely without the risk of physical harm. This includes ensuring proper training in cleaning practices along with chemical and equipment use. It also means making sure they are not in danger from a third party while working. 

The first line of defence is often a CCTV system which can keep an eye on the premises being cleaned and the surrounding areas. This helps ensure the approach and entrance to a building is safe. Specialist security companies can install proactive CCTV systems that actively connect with a site using visual and audio tools. These systems are not just used as a passive deterrent or for after-an-event identification of a suspect. They are monitored remotely, providing 24/7 reassurance. Security operatives can hear as well as see what is happening and can speak to authorised personnel and unauthorised visitors. They can also escalate the situation quickly if necessary by calling manned guards or the emergency services. 

Limiting access to buildings and knowing who is there is also a crucial security step. Access systems guarantee only authorised people can gain access to a building using a proximity, swipe card or biometric access control system. Using these gives lone workers peace of mind in and around the building or premises. 

Accidents happen

Even with the best training and suitable precautions, lone workers are also at risk if they have a mishap. Slips, trips and falls are still the most common form of occupational accident. Without anyone to report an accident, it could be hours before help arrives. 

As well as the remote monitoring through CCTV and access systems which should alert security operatives to a potential issue, we have developed the ‘TRIGILINQ’ system; a highly accurate, real time GPS tracking device. This allows our remote team to keep an eye on lone workers. The system includes a non-movement alarm, panic button and two-way radio so that the control room can escalate the situation if problems arise. 

Reputational risk

Despite the fact reputable cleaning firms have rigorous vetting processes for recruiting staff, the cliché of blame the cleaner if a theft takes place or property is damaged persists. This is potentially reputation-damaging for an innocent individual and the company employing them. The various security options available can therefore help protect everyone involved from more than just physical danger. 

Many of these solutions are the responsibility of the building owner rather than cleaning contractor, but by raising awareness of the issue companies can ensure that they can clean and prevent danger for everyone working in a building.