5 step lone worker risk assessment
- Consider: Many jobs and activities have risks, but the isolation of working alone can increase the impact of these risks when they do occur. Think about the activity through the lens of someone being alone and what additional risks might apply.
- Identify: Remember, lone workers are not limited to remote field employees. Salespeople, service technicians, and even isolated front-desk receptionists are all considered lone workers. What types of lone workers do you have?
- Evaluate: The added controls you implement to mitigate lone worker risk must satisfy two important components; your organization's unique risks associated with working alone and the relevant regulatory requirements of your local OHS authority.
- Record: It is important to monitor the effectiveness of any risk control and those specific to working alone are no different. This also serves to document adherence to your lone worker process which is crucial evidence should an incident ever occur.
- Review: It is important to keep your action plan up to date. So, be sure to review the plan regularly (at least once a year), updating and implementing any changes. Lone Worker technology moves quickly, be sure you are aware of the latest features and services that could improve safety performance.
It is important to note that a risk assessment is more than just a process to follow. If the risk assessment determines that the job is not safe for a lone worker to carry out on their own, that employee should not complete that task until help or backup is put in place. The risk assessment needs to be more than a box that gets checked, it must inform and guide behaviour. We use a risk-based approach to get our risk assessment started.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) identify six categories of lone workers; we can reference them as a good way to get started thinking about the lone workers in our own organization. HSA’s lone worker categories include:
- People in fixed establishments where only one person works on the premises: for example, small workshops, kiosks, petrol stations, those who work at home. A special note on this group of lone workers; those who handle cash like cashiers are at an even higher risk level.
- People who work separately from others: for example, large factories or warehouses or parks.
- People who work outside normal work hours: jobs like security, maintenance or repair jobs, and notoriously at-risk jobs like overnight cleaners, where instances of rape have caught media attention as they have been severely under cared for in the past.
- People who work away from a fixed base: such as construction, installation, repairs, painting, and drivers. Worth noting, drivers can follow a special type of work alone procedure called Journey Management™.
- Agriculture and forestry workers
- Service workers: People such as rent collectors, postal staff, social workers, home helps, district nurses, pest control, and similar professional where domestic and commercial threats are present.
Group common risks
The default reaction after identifying lone workers might be to group your lone workers, but instead of focusing on the group of workers, we will focus on the specific risks that the workers are facing. The procedure you build and the devices or apps needed will be guided by risks, not job titles. For example, you might be a Utility company with technicians in Northern Alberta and have other technicians in California. Both are performing the same job, but the workers in Northern Alberta might have more remote areas to service and more extreme weather conditions to consider. For this reason, you may want to create a risk group for severe weather.
Group lone workers based on unique risks they face
Now is the time to group your lone workers, but we’re going to group them by unique risks as outlined above.
The procedure you build and follow is the real meat of a risk assessment and risk-based approach. In essence, the procedure is how you react when incidents occur. Your organization's procedure should be specific to your own needs and the resources available. You can find an example procedure in our lone worker policy template.
Minimum requirements for any lone worker procedure
When you flush out a procedure for responding to incidents you’ll want to do your best to cover your lone workers in any situation they may find themselves in. However, life is not always ideal, and organizations do have finite resources; with that in mind, here are the four components you need to have as the bare minimum for any work alone procedure.
Conduct hazard assessments and take measures to eliminate the hazard or minimize the risk from the hazard.
Establish a check-in procedure to ensure 24/7 contact is kept with all workers and a designated monitor is available.
Provide employees with two-way communication. If cellular phones are unreliable in particular areas, be sure to have alternative methods such as satellite technology.
Important to know the location of the employee as close to real-time as possible. Where appropriate, use security measures such as surveillance cameras, rounded mirrors, GPS technology, etc.
Make lone worker safety a reality
There you have it! The tools and tips required to get started with a safer lone worker program at work. If you’d like assistance vetting technology or procedure please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for guidance.