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

October 1, 2020
Caroline Preece

When looking into what measures you could introduce to keep your lone workers safe, you may have come across the term Man Down. Often mentioned in the same breath as lone worker panic alarm systems and possibly offered as an existing feature of a lone worker device, we understand that it’s important to get the facts straight before you commit to offering the system to your employees.

So what is a Man Down alarm? And should you be using them? Here we discuss how they could boost your health and safety efforts and help keep your workers from harm.

Man Down Meaning

First, the basics - in a nutshell, the term ‘Man Down’ refers to the type of incident that involves workers falling down or otherwise becoming immobile while performing their duties.

This is most common in industries where workers are required to work in risky environments such as from heights (roofers, window cleaners, builders etc.) but it can also occur in public-facing jobs such as retail or security, as these workers are far more at risk of being attacked at work than someone who rarely encounters customers throughout the day.

Of the 69,208 non-fatal incidents that were reported by employers in the 2018/19 period, 29% were due to slips, trips or falls on the same level, 10% were because of being struck by a moving object, 8% were due to acts of violence, and 8% were as a result of falls from height. All of these incidents would have provided valuable use cases for a lone worker Man Down alarm, as they all could have resulted in workers falling and requiring assistance.

Man Down alarm systems - sometimes referred to as a down detector, fall alarm or movement alarm - essentially do what they say on the tin. Commonly installed as an integrated feature of other lone worker alarms and personal safety devices, they protect those workers who have the potential to fall during his or her shift, and who may not be near to anyone when that happens.

man down alarm scaffolding use case

4 Top Reasons For Falls at Work

Working at Height

Having employees regularly working at height is probably the most obvious case for putting a Man Down alarm system in place as, 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.

It isn’t just construction workers who do these kinds of jobs, either - many roles require employees to work from above-ground level, including emergency workers like firefighters or even painter/decorators who are required to use a ladder. 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

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. It 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 acts as a backup. 

Being Attacked

It’s, unfortunately, possible for workers in some professions to face the fear of being assaulted or attacked by members of the public while they work, and 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, and a Man Down aspect 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 - i.e. controllable - factors.

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 to have access to near-immediate assistance should an accident happen.

sentinel bold man down alarm worker belt

Man Down Alarm Systems - Why They’re Worth the Investment

As explained, many lone working devices include an inbuilt Man Down system that’s designed to boost safety by detecting when someone has fallen down and could have been injured. It does this by detecting weightlessness, impact and stillness of the wearer and insures against a scenario of someone falling 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 easily give employees the security they need.

This is why some more basic lone worker devices by themselves might not cover all of the bases you’d like them to, and you should make sure that any device you invest in also has the Man Down alarm functionality. If it doesn’t, you’re in danger of leaving lone workers without the health and safety coverage they need to feel reassured and able to focus on their day-to-day duties.

To find out more about how Vatix can help, for advice on Man Down alarms, or if you are interested in our services, click here or call us on 020 3820 1857.

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