Friday, 12 October 2007

Corporate manslaughter and the mobile workforce

On April 6th 2008 the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide act 2007 introduces a new offence of corporate manslaughter. This applies to corporate bodies in both the public and private sectors. However, it only applies in circumstances where an organisation owed a duty of care to the victim (employees, sub-contractors, certain customers etc) under the law of negligence. The offence can be punishable by an unlimited fine and orders for remedial action.

This new law will make it easier for an organisation to be found guilty of manslaughter through the result of gross failings of senior management. The definition senior management is not limited to the board of Directors and now includes those who have a significant role in the management of the whole or part of an organisation.

The proposed new corporate manslaughter law will not affect the provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act or its associated health and safety regulations in any way. All employers must still comply with their duties under existing health and safety legislation.

The HSWA imposes a duty on employers to "ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety and welfare at work of all its employees" and to ensure that persons not in their employment are "not exposed to risks to their health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable".
In addition, there are hundreds of health and safety regulations which set out more specific health and safety duties. For example, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must carry out a 'suitable and sufficient' risk assessment of their activities.
As a result of this new law, duty of care and traceability must become a priority to senior managers in any organisation.

Using Mobile to manage risk

There are two areas in which enterprise mobility solutions assist in meeting with organisations duty of care obligations these are;
Risk assessment
Lone worker protection

Risk Assessment
Risk assessment has become a key process in the protection of the mobile workforce. A risk assessment is an important step in protecting the workforce, as well as complying with the law. A risk assessment is a careful examination of what, whilst undertaking job functions, could cause harm. This allows the decision to be made as to whether or not enough precautions are being taken or should more be taken. Workers and others have a right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures.

A correctly deployed enterprise mobility solution will provide any mobile workforce with an effective tool to undertake risk assessments at key stages of job work flow. Not only this, the enterprise mobility solution will provide a traceable record for each risk assessment undertaken as proof of compliance.

So how does this work ?

Below are a few practical examples of risk assessment workflows that are currently being used by organisations to protect their mobile workforce;

Enterprise mobility (‘EM’) in transport and logistics is being used to undertake a ‘Start of Day’ HGV vehicle risk assessment. This works by forcing the driver, at the start of day to enter vital risk assessment data on the condition of the HGV vehicle and trailer unit prior to the driver recieving his days work. This ensures that the all important vehicle risk assessment is completed and the recorded information is stored safely in the organisations databases. Other risk assessments can be built into the EM system to ensure that if a particular delivery is over a certain weight, then the appropriate manual handling process is followed etc.

In the case of mobile workforces undertaking anything from asset management to vehicle servicing the use of EM to provide job specific risk assessments is set to become the duty of care tool of choice. As with the case of the HGV driver the field worker can use his PDA to undertake a vehicle safety check at the start of each day prior to receiving his jobs for the day. Throughout the working day, further check can be incorporated into the EM solution to cover job specific safety checks etc

The whole risk assessment process an easily be built into any enterprise mobility solution and will work for every known field worker discipline.

Lone Worker protection

Senior managers face significant challenges in their responsibilities for lone workers and as a minimum, they must;

Undertake appropriate health and safety risk assessments

Make provision for lone workers who may be faced with a risk of violence

Put contact procedures in place for emergencies so that the alarm can be raised and prompt medical attention provided if there is an accident

Ensure lone workers are medically fit and suitable for the lone-working role they have been assigned

Enterprise mobility can assist in providing the solution, in the previous section risk assessment was dealt with. Using PDA’s with built in GPS and software that can provide real time status updates workflows can be built to provide a good level of protection for lone workers;

Panic button and safety alert functionality
Using the GPS in the PDA we can accurately track the fieldworkers so at any time during the working day the exact location of all mobile staff is known.

A simple panic button function on the PDA can send a message for help to a central location giving the location of the fieldworker and also make a voice call to a call centre so that any abusive conversations can be recorded as evidence.

This feature can be further automated to protect the field worker is undertaking work on site as follows;

When the field worker arrives on site, he triggers a status message containing the date and time of arrival, the GPS coordinates and the postal address of the location. This information is sent from the PDA to the call centre. On activation of the on site status message, the PDA software starts an inactivity timer, which monitors the field workers usage of the PDA. For instance, if the device is used as expected to enter job information whilst on site the PDA alarm mechanism remains inactive. However, after a predetermined period of inactivity a message will appear on the PDA screen asking if the field worker is ok? If the field worker answers no or fails to respond to the message, the PDA will raise an alarm back at the call centre. Under normal fieldworker activity the PDA will not alarm and on completion of the job the safety alert mechanism will turn off until the field worker arrives at the next job.

The Corporate manslaughter bill amplifies the need for senior management to provide duty of care on their employee’s whether mobile or otherwise, the new bill makes it easier for organisations in breach to be prosecuted.

More emphasis will be placed on senior managers to prove duty of care policies and procedures are working and are being used by their employee’s. Paper systems could prove to be problematic as mistakes can be made and paper proof can easily be lost. Therefore use of enterprise mobility solutions in providing duty of care compliance will become more prevalent over the next 12 months.

If you have already deployed an enterprise mobility solution or if you are planning to do so, ensure that you build in duty of care into your mobility workflows.

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