How to choose the right safety device

One of the most common questions we get is "How do I know what type of safety device we need for our staff?" followed by "Can you help us figure this out?".

We have come up with a list of questions organisations need to ask themselves when choosing personal safety devices for their workers.

The questions provide a simple, but effective, way for companies to figure out what their needs are and which devices are best for different types of workers.

This framework isn't specifically focused on Smartrak's solutions. It aims to help you understand the questions you need to ask your own team and field staff to identify your organisation's needs, risk profile and communication requirements in an emergency.

What to consider:

The most common requirements in lone worker devices are:

  • A quick and simple way for lone workers to check-in from the field.
  • A way to maintain regular contact with lone workers while minimising interruptions to staff productivity.
  • Ability to signal for help in the event of an emergency, even when they are outside radio and mobile range.

The most crucial step before implementing a new lone worker solution (and choosing the right devices) is to decide your minimum user requirements.

Often, not one device will solve all your problems. You may need a simple solution for some situations and more robust features for others.

To help understand your organisation's lone worker profile, and the minimum expected requirements for their protection, Smartrak has devised three questions that will provide you with context around what you require and who requires it.

What type of lone workers do you have?

This will allow you to take into consideration all the types of lone workers you have in your organisation, ensuring you're recognising all subsets that exist.

Satellite Vs Cellular Coverage

Once you know what type of lone workers you have, you then can decide on satellite or cellular coverage. This may be a simple question, but it is crucial, to make sure that your staff and the personal safety devices are able to communicate at all times.

Minimum Requirements

Define and explore your organisation's expectations for the protection, communication and alerts expected from a solution. This will help align features with requirements, eliminating those that don't meet the minimum brief.

These questions are explored in more detail in the following three steps.

STEP 1 - Lone Worker Type

The first step you need to take, before anything else, is to place all your staff into one of three categories.

Office Workers

This includes anyone who is in a fixed location for a period of time, where cellular coverage is typically available. Examples are frontline staff in high-risk environments, nurses, people walking to their car at night, lone retail staff, shift workers, caregivers and petrol station staff.

'Office workers' may not be lone workers but in a lot of circumstances, they are subject to risks and danger, and therefore may have the need to discreetly signal for help. A cell phone may potentially escalate a situation or not be on hand.

Urban Workers

They may be based in an office, but are often out in the field. They may be within cellular reception but may need to signal for help in an emergency or if they are in an area of potential risk.

Roles such as parking wardens, tow truck drivers, animal/pest control, tradesman, linemen, infrastructure, maintenance, telco-installers, carers and in-home nurses would all fit into this category.

Rural Workers

These people regularly work in remote locations outside cellular reception some or all of their working day. You may be considered urban worker 90% of your normal work week, but if 10% of your time, you are required to enter remote locations where cellular coverage is not guaranteed, you would classify as a Rural Worker.

Examples of rural workers may include linesmen, animal control, land surveyors, long-haul truckers and stock transport drivers.

By categorising all your staff, you can begin to map out their safety needs.

STEP 2 - Cellular vs Satellite Coverage

It is essential to cover your staff's minimum needs by matching the appropriate device to individual roles within the office, urban or rural categories. This will ensure you are not risking the well-being of your staff or leaving anyone open to preventable risk.

Office and urban workers

Users in these areas are never in locations remote enough to be outside of coverage. Therefore you can feel comfortable with them having a cellular-based device only.

From Smartrak's portfolio, this may include the Mini, Personal Locator, or the Protector Pro.

If one of these workers does from time to time (but not regularly) travel outside an area of coverage, then you may want to re-categorise them as Rural Workers. A shared satellite-based device may be required.

Rural workers

Anyone who regularly works in a remote location outside cellular coverage SOME or ALL of their day should use a satellite-based device.

Now you should easily be able to identify the number of staff requiring access to a cellular or satellite device. You may not need one device for every person, but you should have coverage for those staff potentially at risk.

STEP 3 - Minimum Requirements

Once you know, the type of workers you have and the what coverage you need. You then need to decide on each device's minimum feature requirements.

The bare minimum feature set includes a duress button to signal for help in an emergency along with the GPS location for the device. All Smartrak devices will offer these features.

If this is all you require, you can match the device against their location requirements (cellular or satellite), and you will have your pick of devices that will meet your needs.

However, you should also consider the following two questions:

  • How will an alert be triggered if our lone worker is unconscious?
  • How can I check in with my lone worker in the field?

QUESTION:  How will an alert be triggered if our lone worker is unconscious?

Think of the risks your staff may face and how you want the emergency to be communicated. It can be as simple as pushing a button, but there may be times your staff cannot trigger an alert themselves, and you may want a device-initiated alert (man-down)to be triggered.

The three most common types of alerts are:

Inactivity - The staff member isn't conscious or is unable to reach the device within a set period. The inactivity feature is valuable for anyone at risk of being rendered unconscious or being unable to trigger an alert in the event of an emergency. In these cases, the device will automatically send an alarm if the wearer has not moved for a set period of time.

Tilt Detection - If the wearer falls and stays in a prone position, an alert will trigger. This feature is primarily used by linesmen or workers where there is a risk of shock or falling.

Check-In - a countdown timer is set that generates an alert when the time expires. The wearer needs to push a button to acknowledge they are safe and de-active the alert before this timer expires or an alert will be triggered. This is a handy feature for anyone in a high-risk location so they can actively and regularly acknowledge their safety. It is also useful where a worker is moving into an area without cellular reception, e.g. a basement, and needs to ensure that their supervisors will be alerted if they do not exit within a specified period of time.

QUESTION: How can I check in with my lone worker in the field?

One-Way Voice - In an emergency, it is possible for the first responder to dial into the device and listen to the surrounding activity, (please note, access can be limited to calls from specific/whitelisted numbers only if required)

Two-Way Voice - It is possible to dial into the device and have a two-way conversation if required.  (Please note, calling cannot be initiated from the devices, only to the device)

Text-Based Messaging - Some devices can message back to the Smartrak map, or you can message from the Smartrak's system to the device.

This can be a useful tool to establish the status of any alert once triggered, or to check in with staff when they are on site.


The last thing you will need to establish is the environment your lone workers will be in. Do you require specific devices that are:

In conclusion

Different types of lone workers require different solutions. It is critical to know their minimum requirements.

If you ask the following three questions, you will be well on the way to knowing your requirements:

  • What type of lone workers do you have: office, urban or rural?
  • What coverage do they need: satellite or cellular?
  • What are the minimum requirements each user needs in case of an emergency?

Using these questions to engage with your staff, you will be able to make a more informed decision around appropriate personal safety devices.

Once you have considered all these factors, contact Smartrak for advice on the options available for your requirements. Smartrak can work with you to establish a firm plan of action following a triggered alert. This will include who will be the first line of response and what the escalation plan is in the event of an emergency.

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