Employing lone workers is in many ways different from employing your regular staff. We took a look at the three most important things you might want keep in mind when it comes to ensuring their safety.
1. Most workers are lone workers. Some are just more likely to slide under the radar.
Many people assume that lone workers are mostly maintenance staff that attends sites alone and out-of-hours. In fact, anyone who is alone when on the job can be classified as a lone worker.
This includes everyone from those who man the checkout at a gas station after hours, office workers who travel to business meetings alone. As you can see, even if you spend only a part of your working hours alone, you’re classified as a lone worker. For instance, a cleaner who leaves the office when everyone else is already gone is a lone worker — in spite of arriving when the building was still full of people. Also, it doesn’t matter if they’re employed or freelancers who work alone.
The term “lone worker” doesn’t only apply to wind turbine maintenance staff or, let’s say, isolated oil rig workers. Still, because of this misconception, many managers in all kinds of industries fail to identify the lone workers they oversee.
2. As an employer, you’re required to ensure safety of your lone workers — it’s something everyone will benefit from.
Lone workers in all industries need to be protected. While some of they might work in hazardous environments, the real danger arises from the fact that they work alone. This means that if something happens to them, whether it’s an intruder confronting the worker, malfunctioning machinery, a fall, or any other accident, there’s no one to help them. This is where implementing a wireless safety system steps in.
Persons in process
Obviously, having a safety system in place protects the lone worker most of all. However, the benefits of having a safety system go far beyond that:
- The lone worker. When a lone worker can call for help quickly and receive an immediate response, the likelihood of harm decreases significantly. For this reason, many companies nowadays begin to implement various employee tracking systems. Second, the lone worker won’t feel as isolated as before which increases confidence and productivity. Finally, lone workers will feel more valued by the employer.
- The manager. Use of an emergency tracking device creates a clear assessment trail. This helps the manager see how often lone workers encounter problems. At the same time, it means that the manager has a clearly delineated list of responsibilities when it comes to overseeing lone workers.
- The organisation. When employees feel secure and serious accidents are scarce, investors and stakeholders feel secure. At the same time, fewer accidents lead to fewer breaches of legislation and employee lawsuits.
- The police. Outside organisations such as the police will also make use of integrated lone worker emergency system. This way emergency responders will be more effective in handling alarms than delayed phone calls. At the same time, these systems reduce the number of false alarms.
In the end, worker safety benefits the whole community. Lone workers and managers are able to relax, knowing there’s a standard safety system in place in case of emergency. Organisations are able to attract the best employees. Companies don’t have to pay for employee lawsuits and work that is not performed due to work accidents. Positive effects are far reaching.
3. Lone workers require different types of monitoring.
Most employees are easily monitored and their working environment is relatively easy to control. After all, you can normally find them in the company offices. When it comes to lone workers, there are other variables you need to consider:
- Can one person adequately control the risks of the job?
- If a person has a medical condition, are they able to work alone?
- Is the lone worker properly trained to prevent and cope with unexpected situations?
- How will the person be supervised?
- Do I have effective means of monitoring the lone worker?
All of these needs can be met through careful safety training and effective use of modern technologies. Lone workers need to be trained to identify risks in the workplace by themselves and should a volatile situation arise, they need to know how to handle health and safety issues.
Level of supervision
This is closely tied to the level of supervision. The level of it, is a management decision which needs to be based on a risk assessment — the higher the risk, the higher the level of supervision required. Especially if a lone worker is new to a job, it might even be advisable to have them accompanied at the beginning.
In the end, however, every lone worker will have to make do with remote monitoring. For this reason, effective means of communication are of essence:
- Supervisors periodically checking on people working alone;
- Pre-agreed regular intervals of contact between the lone worker and supervisor — either by phone, radio, email, or other technology
- Automatic warning devices which trigger a warning if specific signals are not received periodically from the lone worker
- Checking in once the lone worker’s task is completed
Bear in mind that in most cases it is a combination of several of systems that will end up being most effective. Which solution will you choose to use will depend on the work environment, hazards present in the workplace, and the tasks done by the lone worker.
Safety enthusiast and blogger. Content Manager and Researcher at BeeSafe, a company that seeks to change the way we understand safety in this millennium.