Safety in the workspace should always come first. As professionals, employers and business owners, we need to always look out for our employees and colleagues, but the task is more challenging when we carry out our duties out of sight of each other.

Lone workers such as contractors, utility workers, and many more face the same risks and hazards as their on-site peers, however they cannot rely on a passerby or a coworker to help them in the event of an emergency. When they actually face danger while on the job, it could be several hours or even days before somebody notices and help arrives. The independent work that many workers enjoy is the very same factor that puts these employees at such a high risk.

In some countries, lone worker regulations are raising awareness that businesses need to provide these workers with safety systems and devices that can connect them to safety resources. However, protecting these lone workers presents some particular challenges even in the era of connectivity. Many devices have connectivity features specifically designed to send information from the lone worker back to safety personnel on site. Even though connectivity features are a huge step forward in protecting these vulnerable workers, not all of these solutions deliver the protection they need.

The increased risk of working alone

Lone workers are defined as individuals who carry out their duties in a situation where they cannot be heard or seen by other people. There is no stereotype of a lone worker, and their roles can vary widely, from receptionists, cleaning personnel and security professionals to construction and maintenance workers.

Working alone is particularly demanding when it involves high-risk tasks such as carrying out the job at heights or in confined areas or operating risky and hazardous equipment, materials or products.

Lone workers are often exposed to dangers that are not found in the usual office setup. These can range from sudden illness or accidents without the possibility of instant first aid, to physical assault. Some industries have specific legal requirements for lone workers that businesses need to comply with.

Using technology for the benefit of your lone worker

There is a wide range of systems, devices and technologies that can support these workers as they go about their work. The NHS provides trusts with the Reliance Protect Identicom lone worker solution. In fact, this device is able to provide a simple and discreet way of raising an alarm when necessary and it also helps to encourage a culture of constant risk assessment. The device also captures audio recordings of physical assault which can later be used as evidence in court.

The employer company can provide an alternative to this system, such as a lone worker alarm app, safety application or GPS tracking system, However, whichever system is provided, the lone worker needs to make sure he or she understands it and knows how to use it. If you are a lone worker and are supplied with one of these devices, make sure it is properly maintained, fully charged and is in line with local regulations and procedures.

Implementing risk assessments

The employer company has a legal responsibility to implement risk assessments of any activities that present any risk to personal safety. Such risk assessment needs to identify who might be harmed, the risks and dangers they face and any steps and measures that can and will be taken to reduce the risk of injury. This risk assessment needs to take into account the job carried out, the environment in which the employee will be carrying out his or her duties and any factors specific to the employee like competencies, limitations, training, race, gender or age.

The importance of training

As part of the assessment, the employer company has a responsibility to identify the training needs of the employee. While training alone will not prevent an incidence of violence, it is a vital part of a business’ approach to managing aggression and violence.

Prevention is vital

When considering ways to reduce the risk, the employer company needs to look at ways of completely eliminating the risk or hazard. For instance, if the hazard is caused by the lone worker visiting a specific person, it may be safer if that person comes to the lone worker and the encounter happens in a secure and safe environment. Also, it is always safer if the lone worker is accompanied by a colleague or a manager while on the visit.