What Is A Man Down Alarm And Do Your Workers Need One?

Adrian A.
Mar 4, 2022

When looking into what measures to take to keep lone workers safe, you may have encountered the term “Man Down alarm”.

These alarms automatically detect when a worker has fallen and are activated by the worker’s weight. When activated, the alarm will sound an alert. If the worker is safe, they can cancel the alert. 

However, if the worker has been injured and doesn’t cancel the alarm within a few seconds, the device will call the monitoring centre immediately for assistance. 

This way, if the worker is alone, unconscious, or unable to get up, the Man Down alarm will call for help.

Also known as lone worker panic alarm systems, down detector, fall alarm or movement alarm, Man Down alarms are possibly offered as an existing feature of a lone worker device. It’s important to get the facts straight on Man Down alarms before choosing the right solution for your at-risk workers.

In this article, we discuss how man down alarms can boost your health and safety efforts and help keep your vulnerable workers from harm.

What Does “Man Down” mean?

The colloquial phrase “man down” is typically used as an exclamation when someone falls or is injured. 

In the context of workplace safety, the term “man down” refers to an incident that involves workers falling down or otherwise becoming immobile or incapacitated while performing their duties.

These incidents are most common in high-risk industries where workers are required to work from heights, such as construction workers, roofers, window cleaners, etc. However, it can also occur in other industries typically considered low risk. 

For example, HSE reports that falls from height are the third-highest cause of fatal injury in the food industry, comprising 20% of fatal accidents. A deadly injury can even occur when the fall is less than 2 metres.

The same report stated that falls from height in the food industry also causes around 80 major non-fatal injuries such as broken limbs and fractured skulls every year. 

The worker’s organisation also bears the impact of absenteeism as these incidents have resulted in a further 230 over-3-day absence injuries each year.

Top Reasons For Man Down Incidents at Work

Based on the definition, a Man Down incident is when a worker falls or becomes immobile or incapacitated while performing their duties. 

In other words, falling from height isn’t the only cause of Man Down incidents. Any accident that leaves workers unable to move, get up, or call for help is considered a Man Down incident.  Here are some of the most common causes of a Man Down incident.

Fall from height
Based on the analysis of 150 falls from height accidents investigated by HSE over three years, workers are more likely to fall from the following places:

  • Ladders: 40%
  • Vehicles/FLTs (see below): 17%
  • Machinery/plant: 10%
  • Platforms: 10%
  • Stairs: 8%
  • Roof/false ceiling: 7%
  • Scaffold/gantry: 4%
  • Warehouse racking: 4%

Having employees regularly working at height is probably the most obvious case for implementing a Man Down alarm system. Even if all safety procedures are followed to the letter, a fall in these situations could lead to very serious injuries that would need immediate medical attention. A lone worker personal fall alarm would allow this to happen.

Many roles require employees to work from the above-ground level, including emergency workers like firefighters or even painters/decorators who use a ladder to perform their duties. If you have employees who would be at risk of falling from somewhere high up, then a Man Down device could save your workforce from serious harm.

Slips and trips
It is also possible to fall down even when not working from height, such as slips and trips. These incidents can be even more dangerous if a worker slipped and fell down the stairs.

Even if a risk assessment has been conducted and all potential hazards properly dealt with or at least mitigated, it’s just a fact of life that accidents will still happen from time to time. The only thing truly in your control, then, is how you choose to protect employees against the fallout of these incidents.

For example, imagine if a workspace has become untidy and an employee is there alone. Should they trip and fall, hitting their head or dislocating their shoulder on the way down, the Man Down alarm would understand some part of what had happened. 

The Man Down alarm would then begin a short-timer that the worker in question could choose to turn off if they are not actually injured. But if they are unable to call for help themselves, the device will alert the monitoring team to ensure the incapacitated worker will get the help he or she needs.

Acts of Violence
It’s, unfortunately, possible for lone workers in some professions to face the fear of being assaulted or attacked by members of the public while they work. This is an especially understandable and potent fear for lone workers. And in 2020, the likelihood that workers are asked to work away from colleagues and supervisors has risen.

Without backup from co-workers, then, we must rely on other tools available to us. Organisations are increasingly realising that equipping these kinds of workers with lone worker solutions such as SOS buttons and incident logging software is non-optional. An integrated Man Down alarm can also be invaluable.

Sudden Illness
Illness might not be something that immediately occurs to health and safety leaders when thinking about potential hazards in the workplace, and that’s because it’s an outcome often not dependent on external factors within our control.

But of course, if a worker suffers a sudden heart attack or faints, the consequences can be just as serious as if they had tripped over a stray box or fallen off a high surface. 

This is also particularly important if you work with employees who have a disability or suffer from chronic illness.

For example, if you have a worker who is a wheelchair user and regularly visits sites on their own, it would be essential for them to be protected and have access to near-immediate assistance should an accident happen.

These situations can benefit from a lone worker Man Down alarm, as they all could have resulted in a Man Down incident where lone workers need assistance.

Road traffic incidents
A UK government report indicates that for the year ending June 2021, road traffic incidents on public roads in Great Britain resulted in 1,390 reported road deaths and 119,850 casualties of all severities.

A road traffic incident can leave one or more workers injured and unable to call for help. Those involved may be trapped in a car or under a heavy object.

Suppose the road incident happened in a remote location where members of the public are not witnesses who can call emergency services for help. In that case, it can be a very long time before team members realise something is amiss. 

Employer’s Obligation to Protect Employees

Based on these causes of Man Down incidents, it is evident that fatal and major injuries from a Man Down incident can happen in any industry. 

Employers in the UK are thus legally obliged under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 to minimise the risks of falling from height. Furthermore, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are responsible to provide assistance or medical attention to any worker in a fall incident as soon as possible within reasonable and practical means. 

A Man Down alarm can provide employers with the ability to fulfil these obligations for their employees, and especially, their vulnerable workers. 

The Importance of Man Down Alarms for Vulnerable Workers

The most vulnerable workers to experiencing Man Down incidents are those who regularly work from height, those who work in high-risk industries, and lone workers.

Lone workers from any industry are particularly vulnerable even if their job is not considered “high risk” simply because they are working alone with a co-worker or supervisor in close range.

Without the benefit of a colleague who can see or hear if anything happens, lone workers left incapacitated will be unable to reach their team to call for help.

Traditional systems to monitor employees’ safety, such as buddy systems and call checks, will not be as reliable as Man Down alarms, especially when it comes to monitoring lone workers.

Some of the shortcomings of buddy systems to monitor lone worker safety include four particular situations that will make it difficult—if not impossible—for lone workers to reach out to their buddies. These situations are:

  1. Hazards that leave lone workers unconscious.
  2. Accidents or natural disasters that leave lone workers immobile.
  3. Acts of violence that hamper communication.
  4. Remote locations or bad weather that put lone workers are out of mobile signal range.

Similarly, call checks have many shortcomings when monitoring lone worker safety. These include:

  1. Call checks can be disruptive and impact productivity, making it more likely to miss a call check.
  2. It can be dangerous or unavailable for some types of work, such as driving or underwater welding. 
  3. Call checks are prone to human error who may forget to make or receive a call check because they were too busy, distracted, or tired.
  4. Missed call checks due to human error could lead to costly false alarms.
  5. Gaps between check-in times can delay help when needed.

The advantages of Man Down alarms over traditional lone working monitoring systems are very clear to keep your most vulnerable workers safe during a Man Down incident in the workplace. 

Protect Your Vulnerable Workers with Man Down Alarms

In conclusion, Man Down alarms can be more reliable than traditional safety systems and even life-saving for vulnerable workers.

As explained, many lone working devices include an inbuilt Man Down system that is designed to boost safety by detecting when someone has fallen down and could have been injured.

It does this by detecting the weightlessness, impact, and stillness of the wearer and insures against a scenario of someone having an incident and being unable to call for help. 

If this happens, it is vital that help is summoned to the location as soon as possible so that, if the alarm is not manually switched off by the wearer within a certain time frame, a chosen contact can be called and, if necessary, the emergency services can be brought onto the scene to assist.

Incapacitation is a huge blind spot for many businesses that do not properly insure themselves against a situation in which an injured worker is unable to call for the assistance they need. But technology makes it possible to give employees the security they need easily.

Thus, when choosing the safety solutions for your vulnerable workers, it’s important to ensure it has a Man Down functionality. Some basic lone worker devices may not have a Man Down function, which can leave vulnerable workers in danger and without the health and safety coverage they need to feel reassured in the workplace. 

The most important advantage of a Man Down alarm is how it reduces the time it takes for a worker to receive help, which can be the difference between life or death.

In an observational study, researchers found that the survival rate improved when emergency response time was less than five minutes. 

Given how important it is to reduce response time in an emergency, some other features that are important to have in a lone worker safety solution include real-time GPS Positioning, one-press activation SOS button with a discreet alarm, and two-way audio.

To find out more about how Vatix can help you protect your vulnerable workers, contact us to get a demo of our lone worker alarms with Man Down, GPS, and SOS button functionality.

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