Android & iPhone Emergency SOS: do they provide enough protection for staff?

 

Many smartphones come equipped with built-in emergency SOS functions which can be used for free. Understandably, we sometimes get asked by prospective customers – “why can’t my staff just use the SOS feature on their smartphone if they need help?” 

In this blog we take you through just what these built-in panic features can – and most importantly can’t – do when it comes to protecting your employees. 

How do mobile SOS features work?

There is an emergency feature pre-installed on all iPhones with iOS 11 or later. This allows you to quickly and discreetly call for help and alert specific emergency contacts if you’re in danger. Depending on the version of the iPhone that you have, you can activate Emergency SOS through a series of button presses to bring up a slider bar. This allows you to place a call to local emergency services.

Apple’s SOS feature uses the iPhone GPS to track an individual’s location. After the emergency call, the device sends your designated contacts a text message containing details of your current location. The device will continue to send updates if your location changes. Access to Emergency SOS is available from the iPhone’s Home screen, whether it is locked or not.

Emergency SOS Android

Whilst SOS features are not included on all Android devices, Samsung phones also allow you to notify a contact in an emergency. Similar to the iPhone, Samsung devices can send your current location to your emergency contact with an image of where you are and an audio recording. This Android SOS feature can be turned on or off via the phone’s settings. 

Many Android phones now also allow you to add emergency contact information to your home lock screen – but this is just for information and isn’t an ‘active’ SOS feature. 

Built-in SOS features vs lone worker safety solutions

The bottom line is built-in SOS features have not been developed to offer regular and comprehensive protection for staff. They are developed as an add-on for a regular user in an emergency, rather than a business-grade health and safety solution. 

Businesses need to be conducting risk assessments and providing a lone worker policy to ensure that an organisation is meeting all its obligations by law. Whilst relying on staff using an SOS feature on their phone in an emergency is better than no protection at all – yet if you compare them to a properly developed safety solution, SOS features are clearly underperforming in many areas.

With businesses bound by a duty of care to staff, in the event that an employee was involved in an emergency situation, you would need to detail the precautions you put in place to keep them safe – including your emergency communication procedures. 

Choosing a specially developed lone worker safety solution with robust monitoring options provides a much higher level of protection for your employees.  

Find out more about UK lone worker legislation and how you can meet your legal obligations 

Let’s take a closer look at the specific areas where built-in SOS Android and iPhone features can leave staff under-protected. 

They offer only a basic level of protection 

Standard SOS safety features on phones have not been created specifically for lone workers and therefore do not offer all of the necessary attributes that dedicated lone working solutions provide. 

Lone working solutions allow employees to start timed sessions before they begin a period of lone work or travel. This protects employees, as if they fail to end their session safely, a session expiry alert will be sent to the monitor. Lone working solutions also give employees the ability to send an immediate panic alert if they are in trouble. Emergency SOS buttons, on the other hand, do not allow individuals to record their whereabouts throughout the day. An individual’s location is only sent to their emergency contacts if they activate the panic signal and, of course, this feature is not available on all phones. 

 

The most comprehensive lone working solutions have additional features designed to protect remote workers. StaySafe’s discreet panic feature allows an alert to be triggered using the phone’s power button from the user’s pocket or handbag without an aggressor’s knowledge. StaySafe also has a low signal mode that allows employees who work in remote areas to check-in even when signal is limited. Employers are aware of any incidents that occur in real-time so there’s no delay in help being sent out to your employees. 

The SOS features on both Android and iPhones are also unable to detect when a person has been injured or has not moved for a long period of time. This means employers would not be aware if a staff member has been hurt whilst working. StaySafe’s man-down feature works by detecting if an employee has not moved for a prolonged period of time or has not checked in. A non-movement alert is triggered in case there has been an accident.

Not professionally monitored 

What is the official procedure for responding to a built-in SOS alert? Who responds? How? What if the employee who raised the alert is not responding? Where were they before the alert was raised? Have you got a direct line to the police? 

When using a built-in SOS alert, you are unlikely to readily have the answers to these questions – in reality, it is not much more sophisticated than receiving a phone call for help. However, with a specialist lone worker solution, all response procedures are documented and, if using external monitoring services, SLA’s adhered to. A lone worker solution gives responders a direct line to emergency services, ensuring that every alert is responded to quickly. 

Not BS8484 accredited

BS8484 is the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to keeping lone workers safe. BS 8484 is the industry standard for the provision of lone worker devices and the corresponding Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) response to the alarms raised. It was introduced by the British Standards Institution (BSI) in 2009, and has subsequently undergone revisions in 2011 and 2016 in order to incorporate developments in the industry such as the introduction of lone worker apps.

Choosing a BS8484 accredited app like StaySafe gives you peace of mind that your staff will be protected in an emergency.

Find out more about BS8484 accreditation and why it is important

Which one should you choose?

Whilst SOS features may be more cost-effective, they offer very little protection for lone working staff. Investing in a dedicated lone worker solution can be more effective in the long run and provide the level of protection that is needed for workers who spend long periods of time in isolation.

StaySafe is a BS8484 accredited lone worker solution. Our lone worker app and cloud-based monitoring hub enables you to view the real-time location of lone working employees and send them immediate assistance if they raise an alarm. Many clients choose us because our app is customisable, easy to use and quick to roll out, as well as having high engagement rates from staff. 

However, deciding which lone worker solution is right for your organisation takes time. Naturally, you want to ensure that you choose the right solution for your staff and their working environment. There are lots of options available, including apps, devices and wearables.  

To help you evaluate which type of solution is the best fit for you, we have compiled a comprehensive buyers guide which is full of information on how you can keep your staff safe. 

Choose the best lone worker solution for you: download our free buyers’ guide

Like the sound of the StaySafe app? Find out more about StaySafe 

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