Due to the varied nature of the workforce, employees within the housing sector are facing a growing number of large-scale threats which can affect both employee safety and business continuity. Employers have a duty of care to protect their workers, but this can prove challenging for large organisations with disparate staff.
Fires are a major concern for housing organisations such as associations and estate agents, particularly following the Grenfell Tower incident in 2017. The tragic incident which caused 72 deaths and injured over 70, due to a number of fire hazards present in the building. The exterior cladding was one such hazard and has found to be widely used in buildings around the world, creating a potential for similar incidents in the future.
This year, a building with the same cladding as Grenfell ignited in Melbourne, Australia and spanned 8 floors. Similar fires were also seen in Brazil, Dubai, Indonesia, Israel and France in the past 4 years.
While the situations around Grenfell led to an extraordinarily high fatality rate, house fires are not uncommon. Recent statistics show that there were 19,656 reported fires in London alone in 2018, while 2% of all social renters experienced a fire in their homes in the year spanning 2016/17. Of this, 25 % were serious enough to require emergency response.
With housing employees spending much of their time in client’s homes, they are at risk of being caught up in fires while their employer is likely to be unaware of their location and whether they are able to evacuate the building safely.
Terror attacks and criminal activity
Criminal activity such as terrorism, riots and street attacks are also becoming more common during working hours and in public spaces, creating more opportunity for employees working within the community to be involved in an incident.
In the UK, the current terror threat level is set to ‘severe’ which means an attack is highly likely. Employees travelling between appointments and meetings can easily be caught up in such incidents which are extremely unpredictable and have largely changed in nature to random attacks on busy streets. In fact, real estate and other housing companies have been found to have a higher uptake in terror insurance in recent years as they are likely to have a sizable presence in cities where there is a higher risk of terrorist attacks.
Riots and protests are also a threat across many parts of the world and innocent bystanders can easily get caught up in clashes and violent attacks.
Locating & protecting your workforce
Housing organisations are rightly concerned about their employees being involved in an emergency situation, due to their unpredictable nature and ability to cause considerable panic and disruption, to staff, tenants and business continuity.
However, identifying which employees are affected by an incident and providing them with appropriate and timely assistance can prove incredibly challenging and costly.
It is important that every organisation have a disaster management plan in place which is appropriately documented and distributed to employees so that they know how to keep themselves safe if caught up in an incident.
With large, disjointed workforces, having a tech-based solution in place that allows management to quickly locate employees during an incident, not only saves the business time and resources but could also help prevent employees from harm.
IncidenEye is one such solution that allows organisations to rapidly locate employees, establish whether they are safe and send important communications directly to them.
By establishing a ‘geozone’ around the affected area in an online hub, organisations can identify who is in or nearby the area, alert them through the IncidentEye app on their mobile phones, and prompt them to specify whether they are safe or in danger. The safety status of each employee can be seen in real time on the hub so that response can be focused in on those who need it.
Communications can be sent to individuals or groups of employees during a live incident, alerting them to the risk and sending them advice and guidance so that they can avoid harm. In the event of an ongoing situation such as a terror attack or riot, alerting employees can help them to find alternative routes and stay out of the area.