This year Washington State has introduced state law intended to protect workers in the hospitality industry from sexual harassment and assault.
What is the new Washington State Panic Button Law?
A provision of the law (RCW 49.60.515) was passed to protect isolated workers in certain workplaces from sexual harassment and assault and requires affected employers to “provide a panic button to each employee”¹ covered by RCW 49.60.515. Under the law “Panic button” means an emergency contact device carried by an employee by which the employee may summon immediate on-scene assistance from another worker, a security guard, or a representative of the employer.²
Link to the panic button law: https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=49.60.515
The law went into effect on January 1st 2020 for hotels and motels with over 60 rooms, while all other employers covered by the law must comply by January the 1st 2021.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries created an informative document to answer questions employers or employees may have.
Why does the Panic Button Law apply to?
Who does this apply to? The panic button provision covers workers employed as janitors, some security guards*, hotel and motel housekeepers, and room service attendants who: Spend a majority of their working hours alone or don’t spend a majority of their working hours alone, but their primary work responsibility involves working without another co-worker present.
*Licensed contracted security guards are exempt from the panic button provision.ᵌ
Tell me more about the Panic Button
The panic buttons need to be provided and maintained by employers at no cost to employees. What is an acceptable panic button?
- The panic button is designed to be carried by the user (e.g., lanyards, clip-ons, etc.)
- The device should be simple to activate (e.g., a single action like a push, pull, or tap provides a sustained signal) without delays caused by entering passwords or waiting for the system to turn on.
- When activated, the signal is effective for the circumstances (e.g., designated personnel will be able to detect it regardless of their location and distinguish it from other audible or visual alarms and noise from vacuum cleaners and other sources.)
- The device is designed to summon immediate assistance and allows responders to accurately identify the user’s location.
- The device reliably works in all locations on all shifts and the activation of one device won’t obscure the activation of others.
- The device should minimize inadvertent activation and resist possible disabling by attackers.⁴
How can Ok Alone help with their Panic Button?
There are a number of panic button and lone worker solutions available for employers to purchase in order to keep their lone workers safe. One such solution is Ok Alone, the lone worker safety solution from Trusty Ox Systems
How does the Ok Alone Panic Button work?.
Ok Alone’s lone worker safety app runs on a worker’s smart phone and allows workers to check in at regular intervals or request immediate help if they need it. The system has GPS capabilities that can locate a worker if they activate the ‘help’ alert. Through the app, a supervisor or security personnel will be notified if a worker requests immediate assistance, allowing them to respond with the necessary support.
What other features do Ok Alone provide to keep lone workers safe?
Other features of Ok Alone include the ‘High Risk’ function where workers can change the frequency of their check-in depending on their circumstances. The check-in can be set to every 10 minutes if required. Using this feature also alerts the worker’s company that they are entering an area they do not feel safe in.
The ‘Man Down’ function notifies a worker’s supervisor if there has been no movement within a set amount of time (1 minute – 1 hour). If no movement is detected the phone will sound an alarm alerting the worker that there has been no movement. If this alert is not responded to by the worker, it will be escalated to the worker’s supervisor who will contact the worker and send immediate assistance if necessary.
Ok Alone allows lone workers to go about their day knowing help is one click away.