Our previous blog “A Quiet Earthquake; Changes to Lone Worker Guidelines” was well received and sparked considerable debate about the varying lone working standards and their implications for users.

As a result we thought the issue required further discussion based on some of the comments we received from readers.

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What’s Happened?

As stated in our previous blog the key development has been the clarification of the police stance regarding URN’s (Unique Reference Numbers), specifically which incidents are eligible for an enhanced police response. This has come from the National Police Chiefs Council, formerly ACPO.


Why is this newsworthy?

Many companies don’t realise that even if they have paid for an accredited ARC (Alarm Receiving Centre) with URN capability very few lone worker alerts will meet the criteria for the elevated  (Level One) response.

The clear distinction within the latest recommendations is to ensure police resources are used wisely and to keep rates of non-emergency alarms as low as possible. In essence an alert has to fit into very specific categories and be confirmed by the ARC prior to contacting the police.

If an alert does not meet the qualification criteria the ARC agent will be instructed to contact the police via 999 or another method, depending on the potential severity of the event.


What are the URN usage criteria?

We have received a copy of the recommendations and following a careful reading the following appear to be the breakdown of criteria:

Incidents Covered? Incidents Not Covered?
Incidents where there is a evidence of a pending assault or serious threat to staff ..
  • Worker overdue/ missing·
  • Incidents where companies are unable to produce evidence of a serious event taking place
  • Incidents where a criminal offence (any) has already occurred.
  • Incidents where a client has become aggressive or distressed but there is no imminent suggestion of physical violence



None of this will come as a surprise to those inside the industry bubble; however it may be for many of the end users and managers who have invested in systems which purported to offer a guaranteed police response.

Often companies have a hazy idea of what is actually covered by the lone worker systems they have bought into. We have strong anecdotal evidence that many organisations purchasing devices on the basis of the Police URN are not aware of the exact scope of URN usage and what events are covered.

As such some of the companies we speak to have been disappointed and have either scrapped the URN based system or decided to phone 999 separately as a precautionary measure.


Mobile Workers Forgotten?

It’s interesting to note that the guidelines refer only to lone workers at static sites (referred to as “fixed sites”), not to mobile lone workers.

As lone workers are often mobile (eg in-home carers, engineers, etc), this is an unusual omission. In cases of a mobile worker requesting aid locations may be missing or approximate at best. Does this mean these calls won’t be considered valid? This is an unusual, possibly contradictory, omission and warrants further clarification by the NPCC.

EDITORS NOTE:  We are pleased to announce that following the publication of this blog we were contacted by the BSIA who informed us that whilst there is no mention of mobile workers in the guidelines they believe mobile staff will also be included.

Do URN’s really meet client needs?

The vast majority of companies/ individuals we have dealt with in the last 15 years have needed a solution to monitor mobile workers and raise an alarm when they are missing or overdue.

When something goes seriously wrong the first sign is often the disappearance of a worker rather than a call signalling an imminent act of violence.

Common incidents like worker overdue/ missing are not covered under the police URN system and callers will be redirected back to conventional channels. Many organisations do not realise this when they are looking for a lone worker solution and vendors tend to be vague when it comes to advertising, using phrases such as ‘Guaranteed police response’ with no qualification.

The result is organisations that have paid extra for systems which do not fit their needs and an overall disillusionment with lone worker safety.


No ‘One-size-fits-all’

Police URN’s are a powerful and useful tool for ensuring worker safety, however their specific application means they do not meet the needs of many organisations.

There is certainly a strong case to be made for the idea that in the case of the vast majority of alarms there is little difference between an accredited and non-accredited ARC

Naturally managers and staff are looking for the most effective solution to ensure staff safety and the headlines regarding accredited ARC’s are tempting; particularly when accompanied by upselling from system providers. The key question to ask is always ‘Will this service meet my needs?’

As we have seen within the latest NPCC guidelines regarding the use of URN’s there are several points which are contradictory or require further clarification and we look forward to these being expanded upon in the near future.