Food Retailers Protecting a Larger Mobile Workforce
According to a 2020 Business Insider Intelligence report, at the start of this year 10% of U.S. consumers were regularly shopping online for groceries. Fast-forward a few weeks after this report was published and suddenly millions of more Americans are foregoing trips to the store and are utilizing grocery delivery services. Until the coronavirus outbreak, consumers were slow to adapt to online grocery shopping preferring to select their own products in the store and browse the aisles to see what new products were there or just what looked good for the next meal.
Now, thousands of new employees are being hired to be able to meet the demand for grocery delivery, leaving retailers with another challenge to face – how to track and keep these mobile employees safe while they are on the road making deliveries.
Some are predicting that once social distancing ends consumers could have developed entirely new habits and preferences for shopping. Ordering groceries online could become the new normal for many households, some that may never have tried a delivery service otherwise.
protocols beyond current sanitation concerns
The grocery delivery industry could rapidly evolve into a major revenue source for retailers. Instead of rushing to hire anyone available who can shop and make a delivery, retailers will be putting more time and energy into growing their delivery programs and establishing safety protocols beyond the current concerns over sanitation.
Programs to provide proper training of staff earmarked for delivery services in safety procedures will be crucial. And retailers will also have to start considering providing mobile workers with the right tools to request and receive help in an emergency situation. Delivery companies have been using telematics and other technologies for years to ensure the safety and security of their drivers, which can serve as an example of tried and true methods for what could work for the grocery industry as well.
According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 95% of Americans now own a cell phone of some type and more than one-third own a smartphone. While these devices provide many conveniences, in emergency situations they remain highly limited, especially in environments that have poor reception or that limit a user’s ability to reach and operate the device.
For example, a cellphone is unable to detect if someone was involved in a bicycle or vehicular crash, slipped and fell, or experienced one of the thousands of other emergencies that can occur on the job.
With a cellphone the user is still required to be conscious, within range of the phone, and able to unlock it and make a call for help. In the case of mobile and lone workers, cellphones are not the most accessible, reliable or function-rich options for tracking and monitoring employee health and safety. Additionally, in the case where a lone worker is confronted by a hostile third party, the cellphone is the first item often taken so as to prevent a call for help.
In emergency situations there is a better solution. These situations are good candidates for easily worn devices (i.e., wearables or wearable devices) called Mobile Personal Emergency Response devices (or mPERS) that automatically report changes that could indicate an emergency. Or, a device that a worker could easily use (e.g., press a single button) to express the need for help without having to speak or make much of a movement.
Like other wearables, mPERS devices are small and lightweight. They provide state-of-the-art location technologies, and also offer built-in fall advisory capabilities. Wearables with this type of functionality are able to detect horizontal and vertical movement. But they take safety a step further than simply reporting a fall on the job via a text message or red flag in a software system.
Another benefit of mPERS devices over cellphones is long battery life. Unlike phones that sometimes have to be charged multiple times a day, mPERS devices have targeted functionality and are better able to manage how power is distributed, therefore saving battery power for when it is needed.
Essentially, mPERS devices can be put into a hibernation mode until the SOS button on the device is pressed. Once this action occurs, location information can be sent to a central reporting destination and an emergency call can be placed. This enables mPERS devices with a single charge to run for at least two days depending upon the configuration and use of the device.
Whatever wearable device makes the most sense for a particular company, the most important factor is that business owners and managers take advantage of these new technologies that could save lives and improve the health and safety of their lone workers and mobile employees.