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What is Lone Working and How to Keep Lone Workers Safe

Lone working, the practice of individuals carrying out their tasks without direct supervision or immediate colleagues, is prevalent across numerous industries and encompasses a broad range of different roles. In many cases, lone working is simply defined by the role; in others, it may be intermittent and dependent on staffing levels. Regardless of the reasons for lone working, the practice presents unique challenges and safety risks that employers should take into consideration.

Understanding what lone working entails and implementing measures to ensure the safety and well-being of lone workers should be a key component of any health & safety program, ensuring that all employees enjoy a safe and secure working environment. So, in this article we will explore the concept of lone working, examine the risks involved, discuss the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, and delve into the development of lone working policies and procedures. Read on to learn more.

What Is a Lone Worker?

While The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not provide a specific definition of a lone worker, OSHA does acknowledge that lone workers are those who perform their job duties without direct supervision or immediate assistance from colleagues. In a 2011 OSHA Standard for Occupational Safety and Health Standards for Shipyard Employment, they also state that “The employer shall account for each employee by sight or verbal communication… whenever an employee is working alone, such as in a confined space or isolated location.”

Examples of Lone Workers – Who Can Work Alone?

While it is possible that any employee in any industry may find themselves working alone at some point in their career, there are several sectors where the practice is more prevalent and puts workers at high-risk. These include but are not limited to:

  1. Healthcare Professionals — Nurses, doctors, home healthcare providers, and medical researchers who work in remote areas or provide home visits.
  2. Hospitality Workers — Hotel staff, concierge services, housekeeping personnel, and event coordinators may all be lone workers as part of their roles.
  3. Construction Workers — Contractors, builders, and engineers who operate in confined spaces or work in isolated locations.
  4. Real Estate Agents — Property agents who conduct property viewings alone or work remotely.
  5. Security Guards —Personnel who patrol buildings or monitor premises without constant supervision.
  6. Social Workers Individuals who work in remote areas, visit clients’ homes, or work in the field providing support and assistance.

What Are the Risks of Lone Working?

Lone workers face specific risks that can compromise their safety and well-being. It is essential to identify and address these risks appropriately. Some common risks include:

  1. Health and Safety Hazards — Lone workers may encounter physical risks, such as accidents, falls, or exposure to hazardous substances in areas where immediate assistance is unavailable.
  2. Limited Access to First Aid — In the absence of colleagues, lone workers may have limited access to immediate first aid in case of an injury or medical emergency.
  3. Violence and Aggression — Certain job roles, such as security guards, social workers and hospitality workers may face the risk of violence or aggression from clients or the public.
  4. Mental Health Concerns — Isolation and lack of social interaction can lead to feelings of loneliness, stress, and anxiety among lone workers.
  5. Emergency Response Challenges — In the event of an emergency, lone workers may face difficulties in calling for help or receiving timely assistance.
  6. Specific Occupational Hazards —Each industry has its own set of risks associated with lone working, such as working at heights for construction workers or encountering volatile patients for healthcare professionals.

Lone Working Rights and Responsibilities

Lone working comes with rights and responsibilities for both employers and employees. Understanding and upholding these rights and responsibilities is crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of lone workers.

Employer Responsibilities

 Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe work environment for their lone workers. This includes conducting thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards associated with lone working and ensuring lone working policies and procedures that outline safety guidelines, emergency protocols, and communication protocols are followed.

They are also responsible for providing appropriate training and information to lone workers to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to work safely. Regular contact and check-ins with lone workers should be maintained to monitor their well-being and address any safety concerns promptly. Employers should also consider implementing safety solutions such as wearable panic buttons or lone worker safety devices to enhance the safety of lone workers.

Employee Rights

Lone workers have the right to a safe work environment. They should receive proper training and information on the specific risks and hazards associated with their job roles and should also be involved in the development of lone working policies and procedures. Additionally, they have the right to regular contact and check-ins with their employer or designated contacts to ensure their well-being. Employees have the right to report any safety concerns or hazards they encounter during lone working and expect prompt action to address these issues.

Shared Responsibility

Both employers and employees share the responsibility of maintaining employee safety. Employers should provide the necessary resources, training, and support to enable employees to work safely, while employees, on the other hand, should follow safety guidelines and procedures, utilize safety equipment provided to them, and report any safety concerns promptly. It is important to foster a safety culture where open communication and collaboration between employers and employees are encouraged to ensure the well-being of lone workers.

Lone Working Safety Policy and Procedures

Developing a comprehensive lone worker policy and implementing effective procedures is essential to ensure the safety and well-being of lone workers. This policy should provide clear guidelines and instructions for both employers and employees to follow when working alone. Here are three key considerations for establishing a robust lone working policy and procedures:

  1. Risk Assessment — Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify the potential hazards and risks that lone workers may encounter in their specific job roles and work environments. This assessment should cover factors such as the nature of the work, location, time of day, and potential interactions with the public. By understanding these risks, employers can develop appropriate control measures and safeguards to mitigate them.
  2. Safety Guidelines and Procedures — Establish clear safety guidelines and procedures that outline the necessary steps and precautions for lone workers to follow. This should include instructions for maintaining communication and regular check-ins, procedures for reporting incidents or emergencies, and guidelines for handling specific risks or hazards associated with the job. These guidelines should be easily accessible to all lone workers and should be regularly communicated and reinforced through training and awareness programs.
  3. Communication and Emergency Protocols — Define effective communication protocols to ensure regular contact and check-ins with lone workers. This may include establishing specific times or intervals for contact, providing lone workers with means to easily reach their supervisors or designated contacts, and ensuring that emergency contact information is readily available. Additionally, develop clear emergency response procedures that outline the steps to be followed in the event of an emergency, including who to contact, how to seek help, and any specific measures or equipment available to lone workers for their safety.

Regular reviews of lone working policy and procedures are essential to address any changes in the work environment, job roles, or industry regulations. This ensures that policies remain relevant and effective in maintaining the safety and well-being of lone workers.

How We Keep Lone Workers Safe

With our cutting-edge wearable panic button solutions, ROAR helps employers provide real-time assistance to lone workers in isolated areas or when they are otherwise working without direct supervision or within easy reach of other staff members.  Different safety devices are designed to protect lone workers in different ways, however, our self-healing Bluetooth network & LTE back-up works in areas where WiFi or cell service is unreliable, ensuring zero dead zones and complete coverage. Featuring battery-powered bi-directional beacons that are easy to install and that work as a stand-alone system, lone workers can easily call for assistance when they need it—and know that assistance will be provided.

For more information on our wearable panic button solutions, contact ROAR today to discuss your specific challenges and explore the blog for more industry insights on lone working and much more.

About Author

Yasmine Mustafa

Yasmine Mustafa believes ROAR found her, not the other way around. A former refugee and undocumented immigrant, she draws upon her unique life experiences to lead ROAR in its mission to empower and protect workers across all industries. Her journey is a testament to resilience and unwavering commitment. With over 15 years of leadership in the tech industry, including the successful sale of her first company, 123LinkIt, to a firm in Silicon Valley in 2009, Yasmine is a driving force for positive change, balancing profits with purpose. Yasmine’s workplace safety advocacy and leadership have earned recognition from the BBC, CNBC’s Upstart 100 and the City of Philadelphia. Yasmine is a highly sought-after conference speaker. A two-time TEDx speaker, Yasmine has also presented at the prestigious SXSW and CES conferences, sharing her deep passion for harnessing technology for positive change. Beyond her professional life, Yasmine enjoys time spent with friends and family, exploring the outdoors, biking, and hiking. She also dedicates her time to the boards of Coded by Kids, Leadership Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies.

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