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Security for health sector lone workers - a case study

01 April 2015

At the Southern General Laboratory on the South Glasgow Hospital Campus, the SBES Lone Worker Alarm System is in use to ensure that if isolated staff become unwell, or are in a situation where they require assistance, they can summon help. This case study looks at the challenges and successful implementation of the system at the Glasgow site.


On 12th November 2012, a new laboratory on the South Glasgow Hospital Campus was opened by Scottish Health & Wellbeing Minister Alex Neil MSP. 

The Southern General Lab site has a floor area of 25,000 square metres over six floors, equivalent to a modern standalone hospital. It quickly became apparent that, whilst there would normally be a number of people on duty in the building out of hours, they would be isolated on different floors and essentially ‘lone’ workers. 

If one of these staff became unwell, or were in a situation where they required assistance, they could not quickly and easily summon help. Clinical Pathology Accreditation, the responsible accreditation body, had also raised this issue. 

A means of ensuring the safety of lone workers within the new building was needed.
The immense size of the building, and nature of some of the areas that needed to be covered (e.g. cold rooms with metal-lined walls) meant that there were numerous mobile phone “blackspots”. NHS GG&C needed a solution that provided reliability at all times in all areas.

Having discounted a number of options that relied on the mobile phone network, it settled on SBES as a provider. 


Once approached, SBES undertook an initial telephone consultation, followed up by a site visit, in order to determine the correct lone worker alarm unit for the working environment, where the alarm alert should go in the event of the alarm being raised and so on. During the site visit, a full signal test was also conducted in order to ascertain what system infrastructure was required to ensure that there was full signal strength within the areas where lone working was taking place.

From this, a detailed lone worker alarm system design proposal was developed, and approved by NHS GG&C.

The system was then built and rigorously tested by SBES, before being installed by SBES’ in-house engineers, with full user training provided to NHS GG&C staff. 

At the Southern General Laboratory, the SBES Lone Worker Alarm System is in use in the following areas: Microbiology, Building Reception, Mortuary, Andrology Patient Room and Blood Sciences. It is also installed at the Victoria Infirmary and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.
All lone workers collect an alarm device at the start of their shift, and wear it throughout their shift. The alarm can be triggered in one of two ways: either two orange panic buttons are pressed simultaneously by the wearer, or the alarm is automatically triggered by the tilt sensor by being under 45 degrees from horizontal for more than 30 seconds.

Upon activation, the alarm system will call the emergency switchboard number and give an automated message, containing the reason for activation and area where triggered. Switchboard staff can then take the necessary action.


The main benefit is that lone workers at the Southern General Lab, and other, sites have a means of raising the alarm in the event of an incident. As a side benefit, the Southern General Laboratory now also complies with the CPA requirement to have a system in place, one of the conditions for its continuing accreditation.

Word spread within NHS GG&C and as a consequence the SBES system has been adopted in a number of other areas including Medical Physics and Imaging.

“We are really pleased with the SBES lone worker system, both in terms of the level of expertise and service provided by the company, as well as the hardware, which has worked without any problem - even in our huge new laboratory building on the Southern General Campus in Glasgow” said Bruce Barnett, Assistant General Manager, Pathology & Genetics at NHS GG&C.

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