Lone working in the heath and social care sector is high risk, perhaps more so than any other sector.
The breadth of roles, environments, service users, and staff make predicting and controlling the risks very difficult, and adding working alone into the mix only makes it more dangerous.
So it is absolutely vital that health and safety managers have given careful consideration to the risk assessments, and have a robust lone worker policy in place.
In this blog we will discuss the main hazards faced by lone workers in the health and social care sector and give some tips for reducing the risk.
What Risks Are Faced By Lone Workers In Health and Social Care?
The risks facing lone workers in health and social care can be filtered into three categories; hazards caused by service users, their environment, and their health or risk of injury.
It is worth mentioning that a lone worker isn’t necessarily isolated. They might be in a meeting room away from their colleagues, in a patient’s house, or travelling between sites. And they might not be working alone for the majority of their day.
Risks from service users and the public
Health and social care covers a very broad range of sectors and careers, and ranges from baby clinics and midwives, to care home assistants and hospice staff, and everything in between.
Whilst it is unlikely that a patient in a hospice is likely to be a threat, a family member might be if emotions are running high.
Similarly, a person doing a profession which involves making difficult decisions, such as a social worker, is vulnerable to threats, intimidation, and violence.
People working with vulnerable, previously violent, or volatile members of society are in a higher risk category. For example, people working with sex workers, drug users, or offenders could potentially be facing verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.
Sometimes, the patient might be more of a risk to themselves, and the staff member could be unable to raise the alarm if they are alone. Self harm or overdoses do happen, and a lone worker will find it difficult to call for help and administer first aid.
Unfortunately, a risk for lone workers in the health and social care setting is being unfairly accused of something they didn’t do or say during an interview or meeting. If your staff member is alone with a service user, how do they defend their innocence?
A lone worker device can discretely record conversations at the push of a button, which can provide vital evidence.
Risks from the environment
Some lone workers in health and social care roles travel between sites, such as district nurses, midwives, and social workers.
The travel alone brings a higher risk of accident, but not knowing exactly where your staff member is, or what their expected finish time is, is dangerous.
Imagine a colleague didn’t return home after their last appointment. How long would it be before the alarm was raised? A few hours? Or the next morning when they didn’t arrive for work? The possibilities of what could happen to that person in that time are endless and horrifying.
Entering a stranger’s house is dangerous, because the lone worker can never be 100% sure that they are entering a safe environment. It is unpredictable, and they are trapped if anything should happen.
A lone worker device can overcome these difficulties by monitoring movements, reporting on locations, and allowing the alarm to be raised immediately, discreetly, and easily.
Risks from health and injury
Just like any other lone worker, a health and social care professional working alone is at risk from their own health. Slips, trips, and falls can happen anywhere, but being alone adds another, dangerous, element.
A sudden heart attack or stroke can render a person unable to call for help and being isolated from their colleagues can make it harder for them to get help quickly.
Protecting Health and Social Care Professionals Working Alone
There are some easy steps which can be taken to protect those lone working in the health and social care sector.
As always, a thorough risk assessment can help you identify the hazards and risks facing your staff and allow you to manage or reduce the hazard.
Writing a robust lone worker policy and rolling it out effectively is vital. For more advice on rolling out a lone worker policy, have a look at this blog here.
Your policy should cover a method of checking in and out, recording appointments and information clearly, and warning others of potentially difficult environments or service users.
Setting out clear expectations on acceptable behaviour and boundaries with service users from the start can be very effective in reducing verbal and physical assault, especially with children.
And, of course, having a lone worker device or application is very effective at ensuring support can get to the lone worker quickly.
Get In Touch
If you would like to discuss writing a lone worker policy or find out more about our range of lone worker devices, get in touch with us. We will get back to you straight away.