Granta Housing Society, which works across East Anglia, is taking steps to improve the lone worker protection it offers remote working staff.

The organisation has been researching ways of increasing the safety of staff who provide care and support to a wide range of customer groups. This has led to the introduction of Lookout Call, an automated lone worker safety system to protect lone workers, developed by technology company C3.

Lookout Call helps lone workers feel safer when visiting people in the community. It allows them to keep in touch with colleagues throughout the day and raise an alarm in the event of a real or perceived emergency. All this is done by dialling just one digit on a mobile phone.

Speed dial numbers are set up to relate to different activities. These could be the length of an appointment, travelling time, letting the system know they are feeling vulnerable or, in extreme cases, calling 999. When the lone worker makes contact with the system it recognises the caller and asks them to state their whereabouts. For each type of activity it counts down until the time allowed is completed. Towards the end of the appointment ext messages are sent to remind them to update the system. If they do not update the system, an alarm will be raised.

The system has been designed to be easy to use and the staff themselves tell the system where they are, so they don’t feel they are being constantly monitored. It also gives them peace of mind knowing that the system will raise the alarm even if they are unable to make a call and, because it’s fully automated, there is also no possibility of human error.

The system has been introduced in response to increased instances of violent and abusive behaviour towards NHS and other community based staff. In 2000/01 more than 80,000 incidents were reported by NHS staff. It will be piloted by 26 staff from Granta Housing Society for 3 months.

Keith Ware, Director of Care for Granta Housing Society, says: “There is no greater priority for us than the safety of our staff. We have looked at a number of systems over the last couple of years to enable us to reduce the risk and improve the safety of staff working with our customers.

“This system enhances our current emergency procedures and provides more security for staff.”