When you think of someone who is a lone worker, someone working by themselves in the field or another inaccessible area may spring to mind. While this would certainly qualify as an example of a lone worker, it limits the scope of who may be considered one.
Who is a Lone Worker?
A lone worker is anyone who works by themselves without any direct supervision. A lot of companies believe that lone workers are only people working who are completely alone, needing a direct line of contact in the event of an unexpected occurrence. However, many legislative bodies have a different definition. They consider a lone worker to be anyone who is working without direct supervision from someone else in their company. For example, if an employee were to visit a customer's job site, even if there is another person there, they would work for a different company. Hence, the visiting employee is without direct supervision, and would qualify as a lone worker.
This is a very important distinction, as many employees without direct supervision are still at risk for workplace violence. For instance, consider addictions counsellors; they aren't alone when they're working within a home setting, but they are certainly at risk. Many professions involve significant risk in their day to day responsibilities, whether it's working security overnight at a mine or working for the government in child services.
Keeping Lone Workers Safe
Now that we've established that a lone worker is not always someone who is simply alone, what are the ways we can protect those workers who are without direct supervision and interact with customers or the general public? All of the basic work alone best practices still apply; a 24/7 check-in protocol, hazard assessments, and a reliable means of communication. However, there are also technological tools of which we can avail. Take, for instance, a device that allows an employee to discretely signal for help.
Work alone apps and wearables are becoming more and more popular in industries where employees are at risk of physical or sexual violence. Trades workers, hotel maids, maintenance workers, social workers, and even postal workers are great examples of employees who can benefit from wearable devices with discrete alarms. For example, many wearable technology manufacturers now include a button that can be used to trigger a panic alarm without drawing any attention. Many of these devices are compatible with both cellular and satellite networks, meaning employees can also use the device to complete check-ins.
Work Alone Apps
Provided that there is adequate coverage, use of a smartphone application may be considered a more cost-effective alternative than buying equipment, as 81% of Americans own smartphones. Lone worker monitoring and procedures can be easily adapted to help mitigate the risk of violence. Escalation procedures can include code words so an employee can alert someone checking on them of their distress without alarming a potentially violent client or patient.
No matter what device or procedure you decide to use, though, the important thing is that employees get home safely at the end of the day. You may hear in the news stories of things that could be avoided if only there had been proper procedures in place, and while these stories are undoubtedly tragedies, they only highlight the growing need for workplace safety precautions for all employees. Just because your lone workers are out of sight doesn't mean they should be out of mind.
If you want to learn more about lone worker services, visit our work alone page!