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A worker works retail alone as a spotlight keeps her safe. How do you protect lone workers?

Illustration by iStock; Security Management

Protecting Lone Workers: Lessons from Helzberg Diamonds and Sally Beauty

Lone workers are not new. People have been working at their place of employment with no one around and without readily available assistance in a wide variety of industries for a long time. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and rapidly changing consumer expectations, there has been a significant increase in the number of lone workers, especially in the retail and restaurant industries. Now, at least 1 million people work alone on a regular basis in Europe and North America.

As consumer-facing businesses continue to adapt their business models to keep pace with customer expectations, many are increasingly relying on lone workers for opening, closing, third shifts, curbside deliveries, and other customer interactions outside of the traditional store premises.

While lone employees play a critical role in keeping these businesses up and running, they are more at risk of encountering threats at work with an estimated 48 percent of HR professionals reporting that their organization has witnessed workplace violence, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Workplace violence and security concerns make talent retention and hiring challenging in a tough labor market. In times like these, more attention needs to be placed on increasing safety measures for lone employees. Security professionals are looking at ways they can add another layer of protection for their associates when they are working alone, for locations with limited or no existing protection, or when they need to expand security coverage outside a business’ building.

Helzberg Diamonds

As one of the longest established jewelry retailers in the United States, Helzberg Diamonds has more than 200 stores in 36 U.S. states—many of which are located inside shopping mall complexes. Like many other retailers during the last three years, Helzberg Diamonds had to adjust its business model to face the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To provide a safe and flexible customer experience, Helzberg Diamonds started to offer curbside delivery. This meant that staff had to leave the safety of the store’s walls, however, carrying high-value items to meet with customers at designated spots outside of the mall. Facing a potential increase in mall violence, Helzberg needed to expand its existing security strategy to ensure the safety of its employees and protect valuable merchandise while in transit.

To help them put in place a robust security strategy for their lone workers, Helzberg turned to Interface Systems for its interactive remote video monitoring solution. With live video and two-way audio capabilities, Helzberg Diamonds relies on trained security staff at Interface’s monitoring centers to see, hear, and communicate with employees 24/7.

Helzberg also utilizes a virtual guard service to allow remote operators to connect to live audio and video feeds and scan the location proactively for any potential threat day or night—just as an on-premises security guard might do. This helps keep eyes on Helzberg’s stores, warning potential bad actors that there’s always a security presence on hand. If there’s a threat, such as an unruly customer or a trespasser after hours, a trained, live professional will immediately respond by assessing the situation and intervening with live audio. Where necessary, law enforcement may be called in.

Interface has also been providing Helzberg staff with opening and closing escorts, which means that every time an employee is opening or closing a store, Interface Systems’ Intervention Specialists are on the scene with live audio and video. This helps ensure employees arrive and depart safely and have access to a trained specialist who can help diffuse the situation or call law enforcement should they feel threatened at any time.

Having an experienced security professional and law enforcement available at the touch of a button has helped boost morale and give lone workers at Helzberg the confidence to do their jobs without taking on unnecessary risks.

Sally Beauty

With more than 4,800 retail locations in North America, Sally Beauty is the largest distributor of professional beauty products in the United States. Sally Beauty has been working with Interface Systems and has also implemented a managed video verified alarm solution.

Security camera footage associated with every alarm event at any of the stores protected by Interface is validated by trained intervention specialists before calling in help. This approach not only helps Sally Beauty eliminate false alarm costs and steep penalties imposed by law enforcement or municipal authorities but also guarantees store employees are only ever called in to investigate valid security breaches.

The company also places focus on the well-being of its associates—ensuring their security is paramount. Faced with an increase in retail crime, and a tough labor market which makes it hard to hire on-site security guards, Sally Beauty wanted to boost its security efforts and decided to equip its staff with personal protective devices wherever necessary.

These safety devices with a single-push panic button can be worn discreetly and accessed easily to help a lone worker in a difficult situation. Unlike phone-based apps that take several steps to engage and could escalate a situation if an assailant suspects the victim is calling for help, these dedicated personal safety monitoring devices are always on and include a single-push panic button that silently dispatches police and connects to a live monitoring service in seconds.

It will also be upgrading many locations with interactive remote video monitoring solutions from Interface.

Many of the new business models adopted during the pandemic are here to stay. And, as workplaces continue to evolve, it is clear that lone worker and remote video monitoring solutions will remain an essential part of any comprehensive business security strategy.

By Matt Smitheman, senior solutions consultant, Interface Systems, is a veteran in the security industry and has deep expertise in practical applications of remote video monitoring and integration of security technologies. At Interface, Smitheman advises customers across diverse industry segments on their comprehensive security strategies and was responsible for rolling out leading-edge monitoring and personal protection solutions.

© Interface Systems