The Lone Worker

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Within most organizations, employees typically work with a partner or within a larger group of employees for safety and security. However, some circumstances and fields may require an employee to work alone.  For the sake of this discussion, working alone can be defined as an employee working solo or in isolated areas not within calling distance for additional assistance, if needed.  The length of time may vary, but typically an hour or more may qualify as a “lone worker,” which requires added security or physical risk factor considerations. 

 

Safety Controls

Whenever possible, employers should avoid situations where there is a lone worker but for those instances where it is the only option, consider the following safety controls to improve communication and reduce the potential for injuries:

Frequent Check In’s

Ask that your lone worker shares information regarding what job or location they will be working.  Requiring frequent call in’s or text messages providing job details and a brief status report can help ensure safety.  Employees should be required to provide updates on changes in location or job function as the work period proceeds.

Communication

As an employer, you should ensure that there is a method of communication (i.e. cell phones or two-way radios) for those who may require emergency assistance, depending on the nature of work and location.  Additionally, there are various forms of monitoring equipment and emergency communication, as well as lone worker apps that can be utilized.  Here are a few to check out:

Analyze risk

Prior to having an employee work alone, the organization should perform a complete assessment of the worksite to identify any potential hazards, including an inspection and identification of the proper safety control measures for any tools that will be in use.  Employees should reduce incident potential by wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the job tasks.  It’s always a good idea to supply a small personal first aid kit as well.

Avoid higher risk exposures

Whenever possible, employers should avoid having a lone worker perform high exposure job tasks. These high-risk tasks include working from elevations, working in confined spaces, working with live electricity, working with toxic chemicals and working with compressed gasses or explosive environments.  Consider scheduling these or other identified, higher risk tasks when appropriate help or supervision is available.

Lone Worker Policy and Permit

It is recommended to establish a formal Lone Worker Policy which describes the details of your policies and procedures for those who may be required to work alone.  The policy should include limits for what is permissible when working alone, such as the type of work activities, as well as tasks that should not be performed alone.  Daily work plans or an Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA) could be used to document potential hazards and safety control measures.  You may wish to implement a “Lone Worker Permit” to document and ensure proper accountability.  RCM&D has developed a Lone and Remote Worker Permit template for your access.

Training

Like many other safety-related programs, it is important to provide appropriate training to workers who will be working alone.  This will include the policies and procedures, as well as any permits that must be obtained prior to the start of work.

Lone Worker Examples

Some tips for workers in retail environments or who may be alone with customers or clients include:

  • Post signs letting customers know little cash is kept on the premises.
  • Utilize safe deposit boxes.
  • Limit the number of entry/exit points.
  • Keep back doors locked.
  • Utilize cameras to record activity and key areas.
  • Install a panic alarm that can notify other employees that assistance is needed.
  • Avoid taking out the trash late at night or in isolated areas.

Drivers may also be alone in vehicles for longer periods of time.  In the event of an accident, it may be helpful to have a GPS and emergency notification system in place.  There are also a variety of cameras that can be mounted to provide an account of any incident that may occur.  The cameras (such as those provided by Lytx  - https://www.lytx.com/en-us/) can act as a witness and as a training tool to coach drivers to become better and identifying and avoiding risk exposures.     

Hopefully, these tips will be useful to organizations who have employees who must work alone.  If you have any questions, please contact me directly at 410.769.6498 or at poconnor@rcmd.com, or reach out to any member of our risk consulting group.

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