Given the number of products/solutions available and the rigour of health & safety, I was deeply unimpressed by the gap still present in many people’s lone working setup. This gap affected a large number of people, was a known issue with serious ramifications, and could be vastly mitigated if not solved by simple tech, but no such solution existed. Daily, people were shouldering a needless risk.
The problem was that whilst many solutions had been developed, they weren’t transferable to a user base that hadn’t been heard. I only learnt about them because of the IKnowFood project, for which I’m grateful.
The short version
The Lone Worker Safety app (LWS) app aims to increase the safety of those working alone. When installed, the app checks that you are moving and if you stay motionless for too long it asks you to confirm that you are OK. If you don’t respond to this nudge, it presumes you are at harm and sends out an alert to other phones with the app installed and an SMS (text message) to a number of your choice.
This means that when working alone someone else will be notified within minutes if you come to harm, allowing them to take swift action to help.
Only a phone is required and I aim to make the app free or as close to free as possible so anyone who needs this solution can have it.
The longer version
The gap in lone worker safety was something I discovered during the joint research between the IKnowFood project and Innovative Farmers. Normally farmers are engaged with once a technology is developed and scientists want to confirm that the solution works in the real world.
This research bid was different, as we were tasked with involving farmers from the very beginning to determine the best technologies to develop. It may seem obvious to ask someone what would be the most useful thing to build before you build it, but this isn’t the way things are normally done due to a variety of constraints. Our research was (in part) to test if this approach was a good route for new developments with stakeholders such as farmers.
The short answer is yes, it is.
During one of our well structured and facilitated meetings, the farmers mentioned the gap in safety that existed when working with animals alone at night in the sheds. This then expanded to cover workers on quad bikes out in remote areas and a few other applications where people worked alone.
It quickly became apparent that this was a problem that was known about and one that they had tried to solve with solutions that were already available. The solutions they had tried all had various flaws which (from a technology perspective) would be easy to fix, but no one had asked what the shortfalls were as the farmers weren’t the primary userbase the solutions were intended for.
Understanding the problem space thanks to the farmers and the facilitation, it looked like a straightforward solution would answer a very real problem. This is how the LWS app made the shortlist of things to develop and where its journey began.
All the Lone Worker Safety (LWS) app requires is a smart-phone and either a mobile signal or WIFI to send the alert. (If you have an iPhone, please skip down to “How you can help”).
If you have (or install) a WIFI hub in the building/structure you lone work in, you can use additional features, however, a WIFI hub is not required for using the core safety features.
The app is designed to raise an alarm and get help if you come to harm whilst working alone.
It’s a safety blanket that checks you are OK and if you aren’t, quickly notifies people who are best placed to help.
When you are working, the app checks that the phone is moving at least a little. If you are stationary for too long the app will ask you to confirm that you are OK. If you don’t respond, the app assumes you are either pinned or unconscious and automatically notifies others to help. If you are conscious and at harm, there is a button to press which will send out the same alert notification to others.
The alert will go to all phones with the app installed and which are in the same group as you, (much like a WhatsApp conversation group). This allows you to set up the most useful group for your situation. There is also the option for an SMS to be sent to a number of your choice during an emergency. This SMS will be received by any device capable of receiving a text message (which is pretty much any phone) and doesn’t require the LWS app to be installed on the receiving phone. This allows for a health & safety number to receive a text message and all workers in the area to be notified simultaneously about the problem occurring. This is just a suggestion and I would encourage using the alert system in the way that works best for you.
The app will monitor you when it knows you are working. There are two ways in which it can know you are working.
1 – Manual start. There is a button called manual start which, when pressed, will tell the app that you have started to work. The app will now monitor you until you tell it you have finished work. Pressing the end work button will tell the app that you are no longer working.
2 – Automatic start. If there is WIFI in the building/structure you lone work in, you can tell the app what the name of that WIFI is. The app will run in the background and look out for that WIFI name. When it sees it, it knows that you must be in or near to the building/structure you work in and so must be working. The app will now automatically start monitoring you. When you walk away from the building/structure, the WIFI signal will be lost, the app will notice, determine you have physically left work and are no longer working. This will cause it to automatically stop monitoring you. This automatic logging in and out of working will happen as many times as you enter and leave the WIFI signal. Multiple WIFIs can be registered in the app enabling you to be covered across multiple areas/buildings/structures.
The cover provided by the app is the same regardless of how it knows you are working. The benefit of the automatic start is that you don’t need to remember to start or stop the monitoring. This will ensure you are monitored when working alone and that if the phone is charging when at home, on a lunch break, etc, it doesn’t raise a false alarm.
Through the IKnowFood research project, we developed the Lone Worker Safety (LWS) app to a point where it worked on the farmer’s phones. We are now performing Alpha testing to ensure that it works on a far wider set of devices. We then aim to perform a larger Beta test (where the final bugs in the system should be found), before making it available on the Play Store. I anticipate this being achieved before the end of the year.
This will allow anyone with an Android device to use the LWS app.
I intend to also get the app working on Apple devices. To do this I will need corporate or further research funding. Having evidence that the LWS app being available on iPhones would help people, will greatly help me to get this funding.
This could be the finish line for the LWS app as, in this form, it will greatly mitigate the lone worker safety gap I learnt about. If there is interest from the userbase and funders, I have also anticipated some extra features which I think would create a truly finished solution and enhance safety. I am in initial discussions with organisations to ensure that these options are available.
How you can help
If having the LWS app available to use on iPhones would help you, please let me know by getting in contact below or by email. This will give me evidence that will help get the funding to make it a reality.
If you want to use the LWS app on an Android device ASAP, get in touch and I can add you to the Beta testers.
If you want to sponsor the LWS app’s development, be involved in its thought leadership, or help publicise it when it is released, please get in touch.
With your help, I aim to close this safety gap as quickly as possible and create a point from which this userbase can be properly assisted.