Utility Week

UTILITY Week 30th January 2015

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20 | 30th January - 5th February 2015 | utILIty WeeK Operations & Assets Market view I n the utilities sector physical risks come with the territory, be they working on live electrical lines or gas installation systems. Less well known are the risks surrounding lone working in people's homes. According to the Health & Safety Execu- tive (HSE), a lone worker is defined as some- one who works by themselves without close or direct supervision. With the advent of numerous in-home offerings to UK households and the devel- opment of technological advances, includ- ing smart metering, the numbers of utility workers visiting UK households have notably increased over the last decade. This rise brings with it a potential for workers in the home to face significant chal- lenges as regards safety and risk. Reports of aggression from home own- ers against visiting electrical engineers have been cited as a cause for concern by the HSE – though thankfully none of the seven deaths recorded in the utility sector between 2013 and 2014 were due to lone working in customers' homes. Nevertheless, threats to lone worker safety do pose a major financial burden on the industry. The HSE predicts a cost of between £17,000 and £19,000 to investigate a physical assault arising from social threats associated with lone working. Lone workers face two potential chal- lenges: first, the complexity of the job is increasing with any challenges they face being initially dealt with by the individual. Second, the potential to face conflict and aggression – be it verbal or physical – calls for high levels of interpersonal and specialist skills. There is an increasing level of expec- tation that engineers, who were recruited for technical skills, now hold interpersonal skills in equal measure. Legally, employers have implemented policies to reduce risks to lone workers. Obli- gations from the Health and Safety Act (1999) require employers to conduct a suitable and efficient assessment of the risks employees are likely to face while at work and efficiently address them. More recently, the Corporate Manslaugh- ter and Homicide Act (2007) means company directors can be held responsible for serious failings in their processes and procedures with the potential for personal and crimi- nal prosecution if a death in the workplace results. With these burdens of responsibility hanging over senior managers and execu- tives, what actions should they take to ensure measures to protect both employees and themselves are robust? Sierra Support Services has developed hands-on training schemes which are designed to equip workers with practical and technical skills. adequately trained on practical and tech- nical skills as well as developing so skills for interacting with clients. This includes how to deal with vulnerable cus- tomers in the home. • Risk assessment and planning. Prior to a home visit, a customer service representa- tive will determine any risks that may be prevalent in a client's home, for instance, aggressive dogs, difficult access, and so on. It will also be identified at this stage, whether vulnerable individuals are pre- sent in the home so the appropriate meas- ures can be taken to ensure their safety throughout the visit. Home alone How robust are your health and safety policies when it comes to protecting lone workers in customers' homes? Grace Kelly provides a list of some of the procedures and soft skills they should have. These schemes recognise that purely focusing on technical training is obsolete. There is a requirement for team members to be equally equipped with interpersonal skills, which not only assist in risk mitigation but also help in the provision of an excellent customer experience. Workers must be able to communicate successfully with customers and be sensitive to the needs of the more vulnerable. This, in turn, increases the trust a customer has in the engineer and reduces any unnecessary negative feelings they may have during a home visit. As well as developing so skills, you should have a strategic plan to ensure risks are successfully accounted for, overcome and tracked. There are four key areas for ensuring lone worker and client welfare: • Training. Ensure all team members are • Communications. Communicative skills are one of the most important aspects of so skills. Teams should be trained in interpersonal skills so they communi- cate well – both listening and explaining – in a variety of situations during client home visits. This also optimises client satisfaction. • Technology. In order to ensure the safety of teams during client home visits, each must be tracked by IT systems that can update and flags up any issues in real time. Training field teams well in conflict reso- lution, organisation and communications provides a healthy return on investment. And it keeps your people safe. Grace Kelly, safety, health, environment and quality manager, Sierra Support Services Group "The HSE predicts a cost of between £17,000 and £19,000 to investigate a physical assault arising from social threats associated with lone working."

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