It is a fact that working alone carries high risks, not only from ill health or adverse conditions, but it also has a higher risk of lone workers being subjected to violence or attack.
In this blog we will explore what the risks of violence and, the effect they have on the employee and the employer, and how they can be reduced.
Where Do The Risks Of Working Alone Come From?
As we have explained here in this previous blog, lone workers aren’t always physically alone. In fact, very often they can be surrounded by people most of the time.
People such as social workers, bailiffs, and housing association officers might find that they are constantly in contact with service users, customers, or members of the public, but see their supervisor or colleagues very infrequently.
This can leave them vulnerable.
The Health and Safety Executive created a report after surveying organisations on how they managed to reduce violence against lone workers and they found that the businesses who had done it most successfully had a robust lone worker risk assessment.
Through this, they could identify the most common risks of violence at work are:
- Alcohol and drug users from the members of the public or service uses who the lone worker comes into regular contact with
- Having to work in certain areas which are known for high violence levels, such as city centres or certain council estates
- Working alone during late evenings or early mornings
- The nature of the job, for example a bailiff is going to be upsetting people as part of their job, so are naturally more susceptible to violence and aggression
- The risks from other people around the lone worker, for example if they regularly work around animals they are at higher risk of being injured or attacked
- Having to travel between jobs increases the risk of injury or attack
What Is The Impact Of Violence On A Lone Worker?
No one wants to see their employees or staff hurt or injured, let alone hurt whilst carrying out their job.
It can have very serious consequences for the employee and the employer, long after the physical wounds have healed.
Suffering a violent attack at work has been shown to increase stress and depression in the victim, and a drop in morale of the whole team, especially if steps aren’t taken to prevent it happening again.
Ignoring the human aspect of having your staff feel low, scared, or worried, there is an impact on the business too.
Physical injury can lead to a sustained period of sick leave, as can depression and stress.
A low morale in the workplace can lead to absenteeism, a high turnover of staff, and a reduction in productivity overall. It can also make it difficult to hire staff, as the company gets a bad reputation.
So how can the risks of suffering a violent attack when working alone be reduced?
Reducing The Risks of Working Alone
Studies have shown that there are several successful methods for reducing the risk of violent attacks when working alone.
Assuming a lone workers risk assessment has already been carried out, here are some top tips.
At the top of the list is adequately training your staff to recognise a potentially dangerous situation and remove themselves from it.
Obviously, it is never the victim’s fault if they are attacked, but being able to recognise the signs of a person who is becoming agitated, and being able to safely excuse themselves is a skill that can be learned. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust offers personal safety awareness training for individuals or internal trainers.
Having a thorough and properly understood lone worker policy can help employees feel cared for and safer when working alone. Not only does it set out expectations on the staff to report near misses and check in and out, for example, but it also sends a clear message that the dangers of working alone are being taken seriously.
Having the support from your employer to be able to acknowledge they are feeling scared and remove themselves from the situation is a powerful tool in improving staff safety and morale.
Are Lone Worker Devices and Apps Effective?
Studies have shown that lone worker apps and fobs are very effective in reducing the amount of violent attacks on lone workers. They can serve as a deterrent to potential attackers and help to diffuse situations.
Not only that, but they serve as a physical reminder to the employee that their safety is being taken seriously and it is ok to avoid a dangerous situation.
Plus, if a lone worker was in a difficult situation, or under attack, they can push the red alert button and be connected to an operator who can summon help.
Have a look at our products here for more information. Or you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also have a look here at our lone working checklist for practical tips to keep safe when working alone.