Emergency Call Centers and Worker Safety: Are They Right for You?

Emergency Call Centers and Worker Safety: Are They Right for You?

Although call centers can be beneficial in a few ways, like requiring less work and providing reliable contact, they have their challenges, like being slow or not offering monitoring.

Regardless of your industry or position, in a work emergency, while working alone, you want to have someone you can easily contact for help. One strategy to address this issue is by using internal call centers to monitor vulnerable and lone workers. This allows the worker to dial and check in with an operator in a call center. The call center will then relay that information to the company to let them know the worker is safe. In an emergency, the call center will follow the company's escalation procedure to ensure the worker’s situation can be rectified as quickly as possible. Using a call center for lone workers has benefits but also challenges, making it a safety strategy for unique circumstances.

What is an Emergency Call Center?

An emergency call center can be a department or organization which receives and coordinates inbound calls and messages from employees regarding their safety and well-being throughout their shift. It can include an internal department within your organization, or it can be an externally outsourced service provider that specializes in employee safety monitoring and crisis response. Both options can be expensive, so it is important to address how they benefit the organization and its lone workers.

The Benefits of an Emergency Call Center

Emergency call centers operate to provide fast emergency help for employees whose safety and security are in jeopardy. An emergency call center will dispatch the appropriate help to the location of the worker as quickly as possible.

The benefits of an emergency call center include:

  • Does not require employee time when using an external provider
  • Ideally, it requires less work from the employer and employees
  • Provides comfort talking to another person while checking in and in an emergency
  • A reliable contact to send help in emergencies

Call Center Challenges

Call centers do provide protection to employees in crisis, however, they do present a number of challenges as well. These include:

  • Slow: Slower response times depending on communication protocols
  • Hidden Labor Cost: Can be costly to the organization when employing emergency monitors or using outsourced providers
  • Allows for human error: Are at risk of human error which can occur with anyone, no matter how well-trained and especially during late and/or long work hours. Calls can be missed, miscommunication can occur, as well as the infinite other mistakes that can be made with a human-attended emergency call center.
  • Lack of location tracking and monitoring: Do not monitor the location of workers which can be crucial when sending help to the correct location. Your employee could be virtually anywhere on your site or between sites. How long then will it take to find the employee to deliver the urgent assistance?
  • Documentation challenges and compliance: Does not document records and information which must be provided in the event of an audit or insurance investigation. It can also be difficult to remain compliant with local safety legislation and regulations using a manual call center-based system.
  • Limited connectivity: Call centers are dependent on cellular networks, limiting the communication capabilities with workers in remote locations or those working alone.

Alternatives to Call Centers: Automated App-Based Check-In Systems

While the call center strategy for lone workers has worked for decades, the occupational health and safety benefits of safety technology and devices are undeniable. While call centers are moving in a more tech-based direction, some OHS solutions are already there, using automation to reduce human error when it comes to employees and lone worker safety.

Automated Check-Ins

There is available technology that can send help to an injured worker without the need for another person to facilitate the emergency process.

An app-based check-in can be performed in less than 10 seconds and with fewer than three taps. Check-in intervals can be extended or restarted as needed. Lone workers have the option of including contacts other than their direct supervisor to know they are safe and secure.

In addition, many app-based check-in services are equipped with additional features such as panic buttons, location tracking via cell and satellite devices, as well as motion and impact detection will request immediate help if the worker is injured and unable to and will do so without requiring another person on the other end of the line. Additionally, these tools have interactive voice response (IVR) capabilities and can usually be employed on devices workers already in use such as smartphones and tablets. Essentially, by removing that middle person, it uncomplicates the communication, possibly resulting in a faster, more efficient emergency response.

The benefits of using technology to automate your worker safety check-ins include:

  • User flexibility: The simplicity of app-based check-ins not only allows workers to stay focused on their work and safety, but they also allow flexibility around when they check in, in what intervals, or extend or shorten as needed during the shift.
  • Compliance and reporting: As mentioned earlier, call centers do not have the same, powerful safety reporting capabilities as a safety app, which provides access to safety reports, GPS location history, as well as any important voice or text messages sent by the worker regarding their status. Regardless of the different safety legislation and laws that apply to your area, using technology will demonstrate the employer is practicing due diligence and take all reasonable steps to protect their employees.
  • Scalable for large teams: App-based safety programs and solutions are easily scalable as your team evolves.
  • Prevent false alarms: Using app-based systems eliminates the expense related to sending out the search team to find a lone worker who has failed to check in with a call center.
  • Peace of mind: Having a reliable, app-based safety system will not only bring peace to the worksite, but also to the minds of the employees and the employer, knowing that the well-being of these people is being looked after. Less stress equals a happier, safer and more productive workforce.
  • Proactive location tracking: In an emergency, every second is important and proactive location tracking on a safety app will save you precious time by providing the location of the worker.

Making a Decision

Whether using a call center or an automated app-based check-in solution, the deciding factor needs to be around the best use case to protect your team while out on the job. Lone worker protection does not have to break the bank and there are options out there for every budget and safety need. However, it is a big decision when implementing such a major tool for worker safety and their well-being.

No matter which type of system or technology you choose for your employees, make sure it reflects the unique safety needs of your organization and its work. Take your time, do the research, and consult with your team – you will eventually make the right decision.

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