Lone Workers – a rising demographic with unique risks.

lone worker working in a coffee shop

What is a Lone Worker?

Lone workers are classified as any person whose work is completed in isolation from other workers. They do not have direct supervision and are expected to fulfill their duties efficiently while adapting to any unforeseen circumstances and are generally expected to use their best judgement. With the increase in technology and automation the number of lone workers is rapidly increasing.  There are many industries in which employees may find themselves working alone, either on location, out in the field, or at home. This leaves great potential for safety concerns.

How can you minimize the risk to lone workers?

Having a safety strategy which details the policies and procedures of completing an employee’s duties is essential to a safe work environment.  Lone workers should receive training in safety protocols prior to being left unsupervised. Safety protocols should include:

  • Detailed outline of expectations
  • Identifying potential risks
  • Proper training with equipment
  • Inspection and maintenance of equipment/vehicles prior to each use.

However, accidents and illness can still arise and finding yourself injured or in danger while alone is a frightening prospect.  To minimize the risk to lone workers, employers should consider implementing the following actions.

  • Ensuring employee has access to communication device, such as a phone or radio
  • Install automatic warning devices, e.g. panic alarms, no movement alarms, automatic distress message systems, (alert that must be actively canceled to avoid being activated)
  • Establish check-ins
  • Procedures and training for hostile situations
  • Easy access first-aid kits and training
  • Locking and securing place of work, installing mirrors or cameras to monitor blind spots.
  • Implementing correct incident or near-miss reporting procedures

While many of these concepts will not prevent an incident from occurring, they can ensure someone is notified of a problem in the event the employee is incapacitated or unable to call for help themselves. Lack of timely treatment or aide puts lone workers at a higher risk of long-term disability versus other employees.

Who’s responsible?

Ensuring the safety of employees is the responsibility of the employer.  While lone workers are generally at higher risk than other employees within an organization, it is up to the employer to minimize risks by establishing and enforcing safety policies.  Employers should also only place capable employees in isolated working conditions after carefully vetting them.  An employee who does not follow regulations is still the responsibility of the employer.