WHO’S BE­HIND THAT DOOR?

PER­SONAL SE­CU­RITY IS A MA­JOR CON­CERN to real es­tate agents as the job in­volves a high de­gree of work­ing alone or in re­mote ar­eas. Bob Bar­ring­ton from Lone Worker Safety looks at a range of tech­nolo­gies de­signed to help keep your staff safe.

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - Bob Bar­ring­ton

IT IS PART AND par­cel of the in­dus­try that agents fre­quently work alone at clients’ prop­er­ties, leav­ing them vul­ner­a­ble and at risk from the be­hav­iour of other peo­ple - prospec­tive buy­ers, land­lords, ten­ants. Agents have been and con­tinue to be sub­ject to threat, abuse and as­sault in the course of their nor­mal work.

In­ci­dents of ver­bal abuse are com­mon. Prin­ci­pals are of­ten wor­ried about the safety of their staff. In the ACT re­cently a young fe­male agent felt she had to call for help be­cause she thought the client was more in­ter­ested in her than in the prop­erty. A prop­erty man­ager in Queens­land re­cently re­ported 200 cases of ver­bal abuse in just the last 12 months!

In Aus­tralia, a per­son con­duct­ing a busi­ness or un­der­tak­ing must man­age the risks as­so­ci­ated with re­mote or iso­lated work (lone-worker), which in­cludes en­sur­ing ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the staff mem­ber. Agents regularly travel and work out­side nor­mal hours, meet­ing with peo­ple they don’t know, of­ten be­hind closed doors; and for much of their work­ing day are iso­lated from the as­sis­tance of peo­ple they can rely on.

Work­ing alone in­creases the risks of any job. Agents’ ex­po­sure to risk arises pri­mar­ily through lack of ac­cess to as­sis­tance in an emer­gency and ex­po­sure to vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing abuse, threat and as­sault. In ad­di­tion to ac­tions by other peo­ple, agents are also ex­posed to ev­er­p­re­sent risks of ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent and break­down, trips, slips and falls, and med­i­cal emer­gen­cies.

As an em­ployer, do you know where your agents are – not just where they’re sup­posed to be? Do you know they’re safe? And how would you know if they needed as­sis­tance so help could be sent to them quickly in an emer­gency?

For­tu­nately, there is a range of tech­nolo­gies now avail­able to es­tate agen­cies, from the sim­ple to the so­phis­ti­cated, to help main­tain reg­u­lar con­tact with lone work­ing em­ploy­ees, re­duce risks and pro­mote peace of mind for both the staff mem­ber and man­age­ment.

So here’s a quick run­down of some of the tech­nolo­gies cur­rently avail­able to help you man­age the lone work­ing risks your agents face ev­ery day.

MOVE­MENT RECORDS AND TELE­PHONES

Not ex­actly high-tech, but sim­ple sys­tems and pro­ce­dures can of­ten work well to im­prove safety for your lone work­ers. Check in/out boards, shared di­aries and cal­en­dars are cheap, and can easily let you know where staff mem­bers are meant to be and when they’re due back. Reg­u­lar phone calls, texts and emails may be all that is re­quired for staff mem­bers to check in to say that all is well. Mo­bile phones have proven to be a life­saver in the grow­ing num­ber of ar­eas with ad­e­quate mo­bile sig­nal cov­er­age.

How­ever, in/out boards, shared di­aries and cal­en­dars tell you where your worker is sup­posed to be – not where they are, and they don’t au­to­mat­i­cally alert you when a worker needs help.

They rely on other staff for the safety of your agents in the field – to re­ceive calls, emails and texts, and be alert and re­act to the non-re­ceipt of mes­sages. Peo­ple get dis­tracted in a busy of­fice, caught up with other work and cus­tomers, and some­times for­get. Re­cently an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist told us how the po­lice promised to come to her as­sis­tance ‘if she wasn’t out in half an hour’ – then for­got!

PER­SONAL SE­CU­RITY SYS­TEMS

Per­sonal Alarm Se­cu­rity Sys­tems (PASS), be­ing wire­less and por­ta­ble, may be used when mov­ing around and work­ing in de­serted work­places, for ex­am­ple. These will usu­ally in­clude non-move­ment sen­sors and panic but­tons.

SATEL­LITE COM­MU­NI­CA­TION SYS­TEMS

For ge­o­graph­i­cally re­mote lo­ca­tions, a num­ber of satel­lite op­tions are avail­able in Aus­tralia across dif­fer­ent net­works. These vary depend­ing on the ser­vice re­quired (for ex­am­ple, voice/data) and so have a range of price plans. Cov­er­age varies across the coun­try depend­ing on the net­work; even get­ting a satel­lite sig­nal can be prob­lem­atic in some lo­ca­tions. Satel­lite sys­tems in­clude satel­lite phones, in­clud­ing the ca­pa­bil­ity to turn your smart­phone into a satel­lite phone, and per­sonal track­ers for emer­gency as­sis­tance when a lone worker needs it.

IN AD­DI­TION TO AC­TIONS BY OTHER PEO­PLE, AGENTS ARE ALSO EX­POSED TO EVER-PRESENT RISKS OF VE­HI­CLE AC­CI­DENT AND BREAK­DOWN, TRIPS, SLIPS AND FALLS, AND MED­I­CAL EMER­GEN­CIES.

DIS­TRESS BEA­CONS

Dis­tress bea­cons should be con­sid­ered where life-threat­en­ing emer­gen­cies could oc­cur, for ex­am­ple when trav­el­ling on lonely out­back roads. These de­vices in­clude Per­sonal Lo­ca­tor Bea­cons (PLBs), de­signed to be used on land, and EPIRBs (Emer­gency Po­si­tion In­di­ca­tion Ra­dio Bea­cons). On ac­ti­va­tion they send a dis­tress sig­nal via satel­lite which is then routed to the Aus­tralian Res­cue Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­tre in Can­berra and then to the po­lice.

ALARMS – ELEC­TRONIC AND VIS­UAL MON­I­TORS

Don’t for­get the lone work­ers back in the of­fice. Who’s first in in the morn­ing and last out at night? Who comes in to work on the week­end or mans the of­fice by them­selves at lunchtime? And don’t for­get the ‘ac­ci­den­tal’ lone worker, when a staff mem­ber finds them­selves alone un­ex­pect­edly and pos­si­bly un­pre­pared. Elec­tronic and vis­ual mon­i­tors of­fer pro­tec­tion, as do panic alarms sen­si­bly lo­cated and linked with a se­cu­rity com­pany to re­spond.

DED­I­CATED LONE WORKER DE­VICES

These are sep­a­rate, ded­i­cated de­vices that are of­ten de­ployed to high-risk work­ers, for ex­am­ple work­ers in hos­pi­tal emer­gency rooms and pris­ons, where there is a high risk of sud­den as­sault. One such de­vice is de­signed to hang around a worker’s neck or clip to their belt and in­cor­po­rates their iden­tity card. How­ever, these de­vices can be ex­pen­sive to pur­chase and op­er­ate, and are an ad­di­tional de­vice for a worker to re­mem­ber, carry and keep charged.

SMART­PHONE APPS

Smart­phone apps use GPS and mo­bile net­works to keep track of your staff in real time. This means you can know where they are and be no­ti­fied au­to­mat­i­cally in the event of dif­fer­ent trig­ger events, such as panic, duress, non-move­ment, ex­piry of a timed ses­sion, or a missed check-in. They can be qui­etly work­ing in the back­ground to help keep your staff safe and only alert the man­ager when a re­sponse is needed. When that hap­pens, you will know who needs help, what the emer­gency is, ex­actly where the lone worker is, the task they were do­ing at the time and what you need to do about it.

Apps range in price and func­tion from free or cheap to proper lone worker man­age­ment so­lu­tions. The best have been in­de­pen­dently au­dited and of­fer fea­tures such as dis­creet alert ca­pa­bil­ity (so you don’t have to un­lock your phone when you need to call for help), two-way au­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tion and man­age­ment tools such as us­age re­ports and au­dit trails of past ses­sions. Some can be linked with pro­fes­sional third-party mon­i­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions for users wor­ried about miss­ing an alert, like af­ter hours.

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