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Lone Workers & Violence - What You Need to Know

Blackline Safety Leader in Connected Gas Detection & Lone Worker Safety August 19, 2015

We recently sat down with Brendon Cook, CTO and cofounder at Blackline Safety, to discuss prevalent risks lone workers face but don’t always talk about — aggressive behavior, physical or sexual assaults and violent attacks that can even result in workplace fatalities.

Check out our Q&A with Brendon.


When asked about safety incidents in the workplace, many individuals immediately think about the many ways employees can be injured. And with an aging workforce, health incidents are becoming an increasing area of concern, as well. But according to the National Safety Council (NSC), violence is the second highest cause of workplace deaths annually and accounts for 17.7 percent of workplace fatalities in the United States — second to transportation incidents at 39.6 percent. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), every year in the United States 1.7 million workers are injured due to workplace assaults.

Blog Images--two weldersThis aggressive workplace topic spans every industry — including manufacturing, natural resources, real estate, retail, utilities, government and healthcare sectors. Also, it’s not related to just those industries that have interaction with the public — risk in the workplace can come from within an organization.


Some corporations are paying hefty fines for not protecting their employees.

According to KQED News, 21 California women — many of them janitorial staff — were part of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that claimed ABM failed to protect them from sexual harassment and assault by 14 men who were also employed by the company. In 2010, the banking conglomerate settled the sexual harassment lawsuit for $5.8 million.

ABM is among 15 U.S. corporations that the federal government has targeted numerous times for sexual harassment.

The recent PBS Frontline documentary, “Rape on the Night Shift,” also explores the risks to women working in the janitorial area, and reported that 50 women a day are raped in their workplace in the United States.

Blog Images--two workers with hard hatsEvery employer has a duty of care to its personnel, to provide a safe work environment — free from risk of injury and workplace violence. Any organization that has not provided the groundwork for a safe work environment has left the door open for risk to the business and the welfare of its employees. Workplace violence is not acceptable and is avoidable.


An organization’s management team is critical to creating the infrastructure to proactively address workplace violence through policy, monitoring and action. In the province of Ontario, Canada, safety regulations require that every provincial employer prepare and review annually a policy on workplace violence — something that we would recommend to every organization.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, workplace bullying includes spreading malicious or untrue rumors, socially isolating individuals, physically injuring someone, threatening others, blocking a co-worker’s movements, setting unattainable goals, yelling and swearing, and hindering work on purpose. Bullying is just one of many workplace violence problems, but these behaviors can cause a situation to spiral out of control if not monitored and addressed properly.

Blog Images--nurse and elderly patientSexual harassment is another important topic in the workplace. Every employee has the right to work in an environment free of uninvited, unwanted, and offensive behavior from others. This topic should be considered head-on within a workplace violence policy.

The state of employee mental health is one that should not be overlooked and may become a trigger to a future incident. According to the International Labour Office (ILO), mental health should be seen similar to how our culture considers those with physical disabilities and their associated rights. Further, the ILO indicates that clinical depression is one of the most common illnesses affecting working adults. Employers with personnel who are suffering from mental health and stress management challenges should proactively consider a workplace mental health policy to help identify situations and provide assistance where needed.


As with all safety programs, employers should begin with a risk assessment and review their workplace violence and mental health policies. If these policies are not in place, an internal review should be considered to put these in place.

Next, the employer should consider the safety monitoring options available. These solutions range from manual check-in processes and supervisory spot checks to the use of modern safety monitoring technology, such as offered by our Loner solutions. Our Safety Monitoring Solutions Comparison Guide provides an objective view of each approach.


A key feature of Blackline’s Loner family of employee safety monitoring solutions is its emergency latch — a feature that can be triggered as easily as pulling a fire alarm lever. Due to its design, it can be triggered even without looking and delivers a real-time alert to monitoring personnel who will manage an immediate emergency response. This feature also includes bright, flashing lights and an audible alarm that will draw attention to the situation from passersby.

We also offer a silent emergency feature that can be used to trigger a request for help without flashing lights or an audible alarm. A silent emergency request calls for help discretely, potentially without aggravating a situation further.

In addition to requesting help in real-time, we offer precise positioning technology that helps monitoring personnel coordinate an emergency response to the employee’s location. We use GPS for outdoor positioning and have developed our own indoor location technology for precise positioning of personnel working within complex facilities. Floor plans are included that provide critical oversight required when managing an indoor emergency response. When responding to an incident, every second counts, and technology can make the difference.

Should a situation occur where an employee is rendered unconscious, our Loner solutions incorporate fall detection and person-down/motionless technology. Both of these features are automatic and triggered when the employee cannot call for help on their own.


Cook is Blackline’s Chief Technology Officer and a co-founder of Blackline Safety. He was awarded a B.Sc. in Geomatics Engineering from the University of Calgary. Prior to founding Blackline in 2004, he worked for Calgary-based CSI Wireless (now Hemisphere GNSS) as its Product and Marketing Manager and developed business relationships with international organizations.

Blog Images--Brendon Cook


Stay tuned for our next post, in which we will explore The Dangers Awaiting Your Staff: 8 Times Not to Undervalue Safety. Don’t miss it! Subscribe to our blog today by submitting your email address in the form to the right.

And, in case you missed previous posts in this series, check out the Top 8 Elements for a Successful Employee Safety Monitoring Program and The True Cost of Not Investing in Safety Monitoring.

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