If you are responsible for the health and safety of your colleagues or staff you might have heard the phrase ‘lone worker’ before, but the meaning of it can often be misinterpreted.
A lone worker is, as the name suggests, someone who works alone. But the confusion comes when we consider that a lone worker might not always actually be on their own.
For example, they might have a colleague nearby, or they might be working with one or more service users.
Confusing eh? Let’s look at exactly what constitutes as a lone worker then.
Who Counts As a Lone Worker?
A lone worker is defined as being someone who works without direct or close supervision.
Part of an employer’s responsibility is to safeguard the welfare of their staff, and this is very hard to do if your staff aren’t nearby.
Lone workers might be people who work in kiosks, portacabins, or annexes, such as sales people, shop assistants, or fair ground attendants.
They might be working in the same building or area as your other staff, but the area is large and the worker is isolated, with or without members of the public. A good example of this is a hospital porter, hotel staff, or even teachers.
Or they might be travelling round visiting people in their home, such as estate agents, tradesmen, social workers, or district nurses.
Then there are those who work in a high-risk job and might be working away from their manager, for example builders, tree surgeons, park rangers, or agricultural workers.
Lone workers are more at risk than non-lone workers, but why is that?
Why Are Lone Workers More At Risk?
Consider these simple worst case scenario questions about each and every one of your staff:
How quickly would you be able to find out and get help if one of them had a heart attack?
If they were attacked or kidnapped by a member of the public or a service user whilst doing their job, how quickly would you find out and be able to call for help?
If their car broke down in a remote area with no mobile signal, how would you find them?
Would it be when their shift ended, and they didn’t report back? That could be hours.
Or would it be when their family reported them missing? That could, realistically, be a day or so.
Obviously, it sounds far fetched that one of your employees could be kidnapped, or have a heart attack, or be stranded in a remote landscape at night. We all like to think it wouldn’t happen.
But what if it did?
In 1986, Suzy Lamplugh disappeared whilst carrying out her normal working tasks.
She was an estate agent and went to show a potential buyer around a vacant house in Fulham. Her diary stated she was meeting ‘Mr. Kipper’ and the address where she was meeting him. She was last seen outside the house with a man.
She has never been seen again and was legally declared dead in 1993.
Suzy Lamplugh was a normal woman, going about her normal routine, like she and her colleagues had done a thousand time before without incident. Until the day something exceptional happened.
And we have to ask the question, if proper lone worker safety precautions had been taken to protect Suzy, would she still be here today?
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was set up by her parents to raise personal safety awareness and reduce the risk of aggression in people’s lives. They campaign to raise awareness of lone worker safety, stalking, and other dangers to people’s lives.
How to Protect a Lone Worker
There are several steps you can take to make sure your lone workers are protected when they are working without supervision.
The absolute minimum you should be doing is risk assessing your lone workers separately and considering ‘lone working’ as a hazard in itself.
But how do you go about actually reducing the risk of lone working?
Firstly, be strict about your staff keeping up to date diaries. This isn’t so you can keep tabs on your staff, but so you know where they will be, how long they expect to be there for, and the activities they are carrying out whilst the are there. That way, if they don’t arrive at an appointment, or back at the office when expected, you have as much information about their movements as possible.
Consider implementing a buddy system. Calling into a buddy before starting a high-risk task and calling out again once the task is complete is a great way of making sure your staff are accounted for. And using a buddy, rather than a central person, means the job of keeping check on your staff is not too onerous for one person.
Plus, it can remove the feeling that they are being spied on by management.
A lone worker app is a very efficient, cost effective way of protecting your staff. It lets staff call into a fully managed centre to check in and out of lone working tasks, and, if they fail to check back in automatically triggers an alarm.
On Android, the app has a ‘man down’ detection, so it even raises an alert if a lone worker falls down or is subjected to a sudden impact.
GPS technology means your staff are easy to locate and First2HelpYou’s unique Connect portal lets you see in real time where your staff are, and if they have set off an alert.
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Or, if you want to learn more about what a lone worker is, have a look at this info piece.