Sexual harassment and assault in the workplace is a pervasive problem, and the hospitality and retail industries are no exception. Fortunately, Washington State has taken a stand to protect workers in this industry by introducing a groundbreaking state law.
A provision of RCW 49.60.515 was enacted in Washington state to safeguard isolated workers in certain workplaces from sexual harassment and assault. It requires employers covered by RCW 49.60.515 to provide a panic button to each affected employee.
As per the law, a panic button is defined as an emergency contact device carried by an employee that allows them to request immediate assistance from another worker, a security guard, or a representative of the employer.
The law came into effect on January 1, 2020, for hotels and motels with over 60 rooms, while all other employers subject to the law must comply by January 1, 2021.
Why Was The Law Passed?
The Washington State panic button law, RCW 49.60.515, was passed in response to concerns regarding the safety and well-being of isolated workers in certain workplaces.
Some possible reasons for the passage of the Washington State panic button law include the following:
High Rates Of Workplace Harassment And Assault
Workers in industries such as hospitality, janitorial services, and security are at increased risk of experiencing sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
According to a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), hotel housekeepers, in particular, face a higher risk of work-related injuries due to assault, with rates significantly higher than workers in other industries.
Vulnerability Of Isolated Workers
Lone workers, who work alone or in isolated areas, may face additional risks due to limited access to help or support in case of emergencies or safety threats. Studies have shown that lone workers are at increased risk of workplace violence and may face challenges in seeking assistance or raising the alarm during critical situations.
Lack Of Effective Safety Measures
Prior to the passage of the panic button law, there may have been a gap in terms of adequate safety measures for lone workers in certain workplaces. The law may have been enacted to address this gap and provide a specific requirement for employers to provide panic buttons as a reliable means for employees to summon immediate assistance in case
Who Does The Law Apply To?
- Hospitality industry — hotels & motels with at least one employee
- Retail industry — convenience stores, gas stations, etc., with at least one employee
- Property service contractors — commercial janitorial services with at least one employee
Employees who spend most of their time alone or have work duties that require them to work without another coworker present are covered and must be provided panic buttons.
Note: Temporary employees are also covered under this law.
Who is Required To Provide The Panic Buttons?
As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your employees while they are working under your supervision. However, you have the option to work with other employers, such as staffing agencies or subcontractors, to provide the necessary safety measures for your employees.
Moreover, it’s the responsibility of the franchisee or their contractors to provide the panic buttons, not the franchisers or corporate entities.
How to Stay Compliant With The Law?
To stay compliant with the regulation related to panic buttons for lone workers, businesses may need to take the following steps:
Review The Relevant Laws Or Regulations
Stay updated on the latest laws and regulations pertaining to lone worker safety, including any requirements for panic buttons or other safety measures. Review official sources such as government websites or consult with legal professionals to ensure compliance.
Assess The Business’s Risk Profile
Determine which employees or job roles are considered lone workers and may require panic buttons for their safety. Assess the level of risk associated with these roles, including the likelihood and severity of potential incidents, to determine the appropriate safety measures.
Implement Appropriate Panic Button Systems
Select and implement panic button systems or devices that are compliant with the RCW 49.60.515 law.
The panic button should have the following characteristics:
- Easy to carry
- Simple to activate with a single action
- Reliable in all locations and shifts
- Pinpoint user location accurately
- Provides effective signal
- Resistant to accidental or malicious activation
Provide training to employees on how to use the panic button systems effectively and efficiently, including when and how to activate them during emergency situations. Train employees on the proper procedures to follow in case of an incident and provide ongoing training and reminders to ensure compliance.
Regularly Review And Update Safety Protocols
Continuously review and update the lone worker safety protocols, including panic button systems, as needed based on changes in the business’s operations, risk profile, or regulatory requirements.
Maintain proper records related to the implementation and usage of panic button systems, as required by applicable laws or regulations, including records of training sessions, employee acknowledgments, and incident reports.
Silent Beacon: The Best Panic Button Solution For Your Employees
Silent Beacon is a leading panic button solution that offers numerous unique features that make it an ideal choice for businesses looking to invest in the safety of their employees. With its cutting-edge technology and user-friendly design, Silent Beacon stands out as the best panic button for employees.
Some of its standout features include:
- Wearable and discreet: Silent Beacon can be worn as a pendant, bracelet, or keychain, allowing employees to easily carry it with them at all times without drawing attention to themselves.
- Multi-functional: In addition to functioning as a panic button, Silent Beacon also serves as a personal safety device that offers GPS tracking, two-way communication, and fall detection capabilities, making it a comprehensive solution for employees’ safety.
- Multiple alert options: Silent Beacon allows users to send emergency alerts to multiple contacts, including pre-selected emergency contacts, 911 dispatch, and even custom contact groups, ensuring that help can be summoned quickly and efficiently.
- Customizable messaging: Silent Beacon enables users to create and customize emergency messages, providing relevant information about the situation, location, and other important details to ensure a prompt and appropriate response from emergency contacts.
- Cloud-based Dashboard: You can easily notify all of your employees of an emergency using the Silent Beacon Enterprise Solutions Cloud-based Dashboard. In addition to this, you can manage your employees’ profiles and create customized reports (daily and historic analytics).
- Easy-to-use app: Silent Beacon’s accompanying mobile app is simple and intuitive, making it easy for employees to activate the panic button, send alerts, and communicate with emergency contacts with just a few taps on their smartphones.
In conclusion, the Washington State panic button law, RCW 49.60.515, was passed to protect isolated workers in certain workplaces from harassment and assault. The law requires employers to provide panic buttons to covered employees, allowing them to summon immediate assistance in case of emergencies.
This law aims to promote a safe work environment for lone workers in the hospitality, retail, and property service industries. Employers and contractors should stay compliant with the law and consider investing in reliable panic button solutions such as Silent Beacon to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.