10 Dec 2020






How Technology Can Help Keep Mobile Workforces Safe During a Pandemic  


COVID-19 has taken the complex challenge of ensuring mobile workforce safety and amplified itMany of the processes which organisations have historically put in place to keep workers safe now risk exposing workers to the virus. This presents a dilemma for health and safety professionals: how do you ensure the same rigorous approach to worker safety, whilst minimising the risk of infection?  

To overcome this impasse, organisations will first need to adapt existing processes, then introduce new measures to help prevent the spread of the pandemic. In this article, we’ll explore the strategies used by SkillGuard customers to overcome the following problems: 

  • How can you determine a worker’s authority to work whilst maintaining social distancing?
  • How can organisations ensure that sites are COVID-secure, and workers know how to work in a COVID-secure way?
  • What steps can organisations take to minimise the risk of COVID-19 to business productivity?
  • How are SkillGuard users implementing SkillGuards features to keep their workers safe? 

Social Distancing and Authority to Work 

Technology is essential for businesses that want to determine whether a worker has the competencies and legal right to work. For example, a smartcard solution enables an organisation to access a workers key information. This also allows card checkers to ensure that all workers have the appropriate PPE and are in a fit state to work. A benefit to solutions like this is that they drive down accident frequency rates, which in turn, helps organisations deliver projects on time and protects the company from legal liability.  

Before the pandemic, card checkers scanned smartcards at close quarters. This is no longer considered safe, but by using existing technology, smartcards can be checked and safety procedures upheld whilst maintaining social distance. 

SkillGuard is the leading workforce management system and its users have been able to take advantage of its flexibility to maintain the highest standard of safety measures, whilst ensuring social distancing. Here are four of the measures our customers have taken to maintain social distancing on site: 

Installing Long-Range QR Code Readers 

Standard QR code readers can scan up to 45cms away. But a long-range QR reader can scan at distances great enough to maintain social distance 

PC Connected Card Readers 

PC connected card readers can be plugged into a computer and set up more than two metres away from a card checker’s station. They use NFC, which means that they’re an entirely secure, contactless way to determine a worker's authority to work, with the added advantage of automatically updating the card with any new information about the worker. 

Making use of Webcams 

Webcams can read QR codes, which means a webcam can be set up outside and a worker can still present their smartcard. The card checker can then use the webcam to surface the worker’s details and ensure that their smartcard does in fact belong to them. 

Interfacing with PAC Systems 

Many of our clients use physical access control (PAC) systems to make sure that everyone who enters a site has the right to be thereThese clients can use SkillGuard to interface with their PAC systems so that workers need only swipe their smartcards to gain entry. 

To add in an extra layer of protection from COVID, SkillGuard customers can opt for virtual cards in place of smart cards. They use trusted technology to replace physical documentation, which not only helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but provides the gold-standard in worker identification technology as they use short life QR codes, making them impossible to replicate. 

Customer Spotlight: The RIW programme recently partnered with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to further protect workers. The key goal was to try an alternative process to the physical signing of the Pre-Work Brief, using the contactless capabilities already available in the system to record attendance and award competencies electronically using the RIW app. The result, following an online training session, enabled the successful implementation of a contactless process for rail workers to swipe their physical or virtual smartcards via the RIW app. The solution has been rolled out across nine sites and saw 144 competencies awarded in the first 24 hours.  

Click here to learn more about how Reference Point are helping protect Australian rail workers. 

Guaranteeing COVID-secure Ways of Working 

Without proper measures, the risks posed by COVID-19 to worker health, and in turn, key business goals, are substantial. This is why organisations like Build UK and CITB  have put together detailed guidelines outlining COVID-secure site operating procedures. They also supply a toolbox talk which gives workers the knowledge they need to work safely during a pandemic.  

But how do you record that worker has had toolbox talk? Using SkillGuard, toolbox talks delivered on-site can be recorded along with the workers who attended. All this information can be electronically recorded and saved to their records in a matter of seconds and whilst maintaining social distance. This gives your card checkers the information they need to determine which workers have the information they need to work safely during the pandemic, and which don’t. 

Preventing Outbreaks with Site Tracking 

Government advice recommends organisations keep track of shift patterns for at least 21 days to help trace infections and prevent outbreaks. But for many organisations, a thick supply chain fog makes this data inaccessible. This is because the sheer volume of contractors and subcontractors that make up their supply chain can make it near-impossible to know which workers were where and at what time.  

If a worker is infected, then everyone that worker has been in contact with is at risk of having caught the virus and needs to get tested, which means that organisations unable to track which workers worked together risk outbreaks. This risks entire sites being shut down. It risks the lives of your workersit risks project delays and it risks the reputation of your business 

SkillGuard is the tool your organisation needs to minimise these risks as it will help you track and report on worker shifts, as every swipe and every spot check is logged with a location, time and date. You can then use this data to generate reports identifying workers who worked at the same location, at the same time. This information can then be used to notify everyone at risk to ensure that an outbreak is prevented. 

Final Word 

Your COVID response doesn’t have to undercut your existing safety procedures, you could use SkillGuard to protect your workers against the pandemicIt will help your business to ensure: 

  • Card checkers can maintain social distance 
  • That everyone who enters one of your sites knows how to work in a COVID-secure way 
  • The risk of outbreaks is minimised with robust site-tracking features  
  • And that you are driving down accident frequency rates at the same time 

If you want to read about how Reference Point has helped RIW rise to the COVID-19 challenge and keep Australian workers safe, then click here to read the case study. 


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