Critical Alarms: The Risks of Not Responding in Time

Klaus Allion

Klaus Allion

Klaus Allion explores the moral duty and legal responsibility of particular industries that operate within a high-risk environment. Critical alarms are a fundamental component to assure the safety of staff and continuity of operations, and by failing to respond appropriately to critical alarms or failing to put measures in place to keep staff as safe as possible, companies are risking the safety of their workforce. As a result, significant fines could be imposed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

For any organisation that operates within a high-risk environment, critical alarms are a fundamental component to assure the safety of staff and the continuity of operations. The manufacturing industry, in particular, is known to be a high-risk environment as workers typically have to deal with heavy-duty machinery and potentially hazardous materials. This environment can be especially dangerous for lone workers who perform their roles without supervision from other colleagues.

Organisations not only have a moral duty to ensure the safety of staff, but also a legal responsibility. By law, employers must control any potential risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace by undertaking risk assessments, providing information about potential hazards and how staff are protected, as well as training employees on how to deal with the risks involved.

With a critical alarm system in place, staff can feel confident in the knowledge that their welfare is being monitored such that, in the event of an incident on site, it will be acknowledged and rectified as quickly as possible. In order to make this a reality, businesses must therefore ensure that the workforce fully understands the critical alarm response processes that are in place so that when an alarm is activated, they’re fully prepared to act swiftly and appropriately.

What are the risks? 

What are the risks involved if a critical alert isn’t responded to in good time? While alerts are useful, unless critical alarms are managed and responded to efficiently, they’re of little use to an organisation in terms of keeping employees safe and ensuring machinery continues to function at an optimum level.

Inadequate alarm management and poor processes can lead to a number of consequences for organisations. If an employee is injured on site and requires emergency assistance, the time it takes to respond could be the difference between life and death and may well mean the individual is left with life-changing injuries.

By failing to respond appropriately to critical alarms or failing to put measures in place to keep staff as safe as possible, companies are risking the safety of their workforce and, as a result, significant fines could be imposed by the HSE. Not only can these fines be financially damaging, but the subsequent reputational damage can also be severe. Furthermore, staff may be opposed to working in the same roles until the right safety procedures are put in place, placing additional strain on the organisation.

Wasted time, reduced productivity

There’s also a likelihood that organisations will also be faced with wasted time, product and money if machine alerts are not dealt with in a timely manner. For example, an alarm on a food production line could be alerting to faulty temperature regulation. If the alarm is responded to and resolved efficiently, the quantity of spoiled produce could be minimal. However, if there’s a delay in acknowledging the alert and performing a subsequent fix, the fault could escalate and the amount of wasted food could rapidly increase.

In a worse case scenario, if the entire production line has to be stopped or the building has to be evacuated due to safety concerns, the knock-on effect in terms of time and money could be significant.

In any high-risk environment, incidents will occur, but by deploying a combination of appropriate technology and processes, companies can effectively safeguard their operations and staff and mitigate risks as much as possible.

Klaus Allion is Managing Director at ANT Telecom

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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