Lone Worker Safety – A Definitive Guide
Who are lone workers and what jobs do they do?
Lone workers are found in a wide range of situations and are classified as someone who works alone without close or direct supervision for a period of time. This can include anyone who makes in-home visits like nurses, works alone in factories or warehouses, works outside of normal hours like custodians, or service workers (e.g. social workers, drivers). All of these employees face potentially dangerous situations ranging from accidents to sudden illness to physical or verbal violence.
Today, however, companies have more options. Mobile phones and devices, email, and intranet sites are the most common communication channels, but they also are only as beneficial as how they are being used. Mass communications software holds the answers.
How do organizations protect lone workers?
As an organization, it’s your primary concern to ensure all of your employees feel comfortable each and every day on the job. OSHA has put several federal regulations into place as the employer’s responsibility, regardless of whether they’re surrounded by colleagues or alone on an assignment:
- Furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,
- Whenever an employee is working alone, such as in a confined space or isolated location, the employer needs to account for each employee,
- At the end of the job assignment or at the end of the work shift, and
- The employer should account for each employee by sight or verbal communication.
While OSHA covers all of the bases to account for each employee, it doesn’t take into consideration when a worker is caught in an emergency situation on the job and needs access to help immediately. How long have they been by themselves? How do they ask for assistance? How do you know their precise location? When you have employees that are working alone and exposed to risks, it’s important to put measures into place to avoid or mitigate the dangers they could face.
What are some examples of lone worker activities?
Employers have a responsibility to assess risk to lone workers and take steps to control risk where necessary. There is a wide variety of high-risk activities that mobile workers may face, but here are a few at the top of the list:
- Going into people’s homes
- Working in confined spaces or at heights
- Leaving the office late at night
- Working with hazardous substances or materials
- Interacting with other people outside the organization
Ask yourself, what is your organization doing to ensure employees are safe while performing these various activities? And is lone worker safety a priority to you?
Why is lone worker safety important?
There are 53 million lone workers in the United States, Canada, and Europe combined. To put that statistic into perspective, it represents about 15% of the overall workforce. In fact, the International Labor Organization estimates that 2.3 million work-related fatalities happen each year. Are you doing everything possible to protect the safety of your organization’s most valuable assets – your employees? Let’s take a look at some stats that will make you want to take additional steps to protect your workers:
- 44% of workers say they face personal safety issues in their primary employment practices.
- OSHA states that 48% more assaults occur in the healthcare and social services industries more than any other.
- 62% of social workers have been subject to psychological aggression in the past year, with 86% experiencing this at some point in their careers.
- 15% of social workers have been physically assaulted by clients in the past year, with 30% having experienced this at some point in their career.
- Employee turnover rate is as high as 75% among home healthcare workers.
- 50% of retail workers that are killed are employed alone at late night establishments, such as liquor stores or gas stations.
With all of these stats showing how dangerous it can be as a lone worker, it makes sense that lone worker safety must be a top priority for any organization. Just think, if you place an emphasis on protecting your employees, then you have the opportunity to see less turnover, save time and money, and recruit more qualified candidates. Not to mention the gratitude you will receive from the lone workers’ loved ones knowing that they’re being protected each day.
How to improve lone worker safety?
Lone workers are looking for organizations that prioritize their safety and offer various solutions for protecting them in dangerous situations. Fortunately, there are quite a few steps organizations can take to keep their people safe.
Before ever sending a lone worker out into the field, make sure they’re prepared for every scenario. Conduct risk assessments to determine the best way to handle each individual situation. Educate them on what all they can be faced with in the field and apply protocols. Give them guidance on an action plan in the event of an emergency. Giving your people this type of education will not only let them know you value their life, but also help mitigate risk before it ever occurs.
Procedures must be put in place to monitor lone workers. As a supervisor, plan on periodically visiting and observing your mobile employees. Look at investing in devices that allow you to track the precise location of each lone worker by sending wellness checks when a job is complete. By monitoring your people, you will have the opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive to emergency situations.
Mobile App Solutions
With so many technological advancements these days, many organizations are turning to mobile apps to improve lone worker safety. Every lone worker is already carrying a smartphone with them, so why not leverage the technology already in their pockets or purses? The best mobile apps on the market use location services within the smartphone to track the workers precise location and give them a connection to law enforcement without pushing a button. When your people need help, who has time to unlock their phone, find the mobile app, and call for police? Employees need a personal safety device that offers them protection within seconds.
A lot of organizations wait until it’s too late, or wait until an incident occurs. They fear that the cost per person is too much. But in the grand scheme of things, that cost is nothing compared to possibly saving a life, reducing turnover, and ensuring peace of mind for your workers and their families.