Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Gordon Knight – CEO at PanicGuard Africa
Martin Wijlens – Travel Risk Management
Heimo Grasser – Chief Awareness Strategist at SAME and Regional Head of Security at Medtronic

Key Points

Gordon Knight starts by putting safety Apps in perspective emphasising that they are and can only be a part of a layered approach to security. Not all companies see this, some view duty of care responsibilities in terms of a tick box exercise, and that can create a false sense of security. This has other dangers, not engaging with the subject matter fully can result in not getting the right product (App) and people not knowing how to use it; Apps are not the silver bullet they are a part of the solution. For Apps to be effective they must be seen to be useful. Gordon cites a company that made it compulsory for employees to download a safety App, they didn’t have to log in which managed privacy concerns. But getting engagement involved providing information that is useful, for example alerting them to avoid an area because a road is closed. The fact that employees could see the App offered a 24 hour solution, one they could use it in leisure times when needed, added to its attraction. Gordon emphasises that different training is needed for those who are more high risk. Interestingly in South Africa they have a networked response involving 250 security companies which according to Gordon works well. Maybe this can serve as an example and reference point to others?

Heimo Grasser, argues that from a security perspective employees are not more vulnerable when out and about post Covid-19, that said leveraging security technologies is always key to reducing risks. Apps are an important tool in toolbox, but the programs supporting the Apps have to be good too. There is an interesting discussion on the extent to which Apps can lead to a false sense of security. Heimo notes research where those wearing crash helmets while riding a bike were clearly less in danger of getting a serious head injury but as a consequence rode bikes less safely. In other words, a sense of safety can create a tendency for unsafe behaviour. A different challenge is getting people to use the App once they have it, especially at the point they need to do so, and this comes down to effective marketing and communication. Then there is the very real danger of App fatigue. Work is always needed to evolve best practice.

Martin Wijlens discusses the challenge of locating people, there is no complete solution, but it is fundamental and is always a consideration, and needs to be located somewhere in the platforms being used. Another constant challenge is balancing privacy issues with security. People accept the need for security at work but there is often less support when requirements spill over into private spheres. That said in times of crisis duty of care takes priority over privacy. The role of security comes to the fore when a crisis does occur, it is then that the functionality of the App needs to be effective and must provide value. Increasingly information to help employees cope with the risks of Covid-19 are covered in Apps, linking for example to third parties which assess the safety of hotels.  There is an interesting discussion about the process for getting suppliers engaged.

This interesting webinar helps put Apps in perspective. They can never be relied on completely because connectivity can be an issue as some places are not well connected, there is no signal. An App can alert that there is no connectivity but the user has to be looking at the phone. In a different way the danger that people engage in risky behaviour because of the presence of Apps is interesting and merits more research. Logically people may feel more confident and there is a good reason to feel like that, this is the purpose of Apps, but, as the panel stressed, there are risks and these need to be managed in the training and awareness undertaken around the deployment of a safety App. We find once again that the real potential of good technologies rests in no small part in the engagement of skilled and committed people.

Martin Gill
1st April 2021