Lone working can come with its risks, but at different times of the year, there can be certain seasonal effects which accentuate these hazards, or bring new ones.
Lone workers should not be put at a greater risk than other employees, but the nature of their work can mean that frequently they are. While many workers are affected by seasonal changes, especially when it comes to commuting, lone workers may find themselves more exposed, sometimes literally.
Here we look at the potential effects of the changing seasons on lone workers.
Summer Seasonal Effects
In the middle of one of the longest recorded UK heatwaves, it is worth considering all seasons and how they might affect lone workers, and while winter weather has its hazards, so does a hot summer.
When the weather is too hot for too long, there are health risks. These include dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Why might lone workers be at risk? Firstly, anyone who is physically active as part of their work can be at risk in the heat. For lone workers, typically this can include people making deliveries, contract cleaners and personnel who routinely work outdoors, such as surveyors.
There are also potential issues to do with tiredness. When it gets too hot, people sleep less well, and for lone workers without support close by, this could have an impact on them during the course of their working day and on the duties they perform.
Whereas the NHS suggests not going out between 11am and 3pm when it is hot, for many workers, this will not be an option, and for many lone workers, they may actually be out on the road, travelling in the heat.
One thing lone workers can do is plan ahead. This means ensuring they have the supplies they need for the day, including plenty of water for hydration when travelling and working.
At a level 4 severe heatwave, according to the NHS, the health risks can affect those people who are normally fit and healthy, alongside more vulnerable groups.
Lone Working in Winter
The hazards of lone working in winter are perhaps more obvious.
First, it is darker. The mornings are dark, the days short. There are car windows to defrost, alongside general vehicle safety to consider. Travelling alone can put workers at risk if they face hazardous driving conditions, and accident, or breakdown.
A general lower level of visibility means that anyone working alone may face a greater risk of accident, or even assault, and may be less conspicuous to passersby, should they end up injured.
One example of a lone worker at risk is the estate agents. They may find themselves visiting unfamiliar locations with people who are strangers. During winter time, the dangers are accentuated by the increased amount of darkness, and, potentially, low visibility due to bad weather.
Working outside in cold weather can lead to fatigue, and risks where handling machinery or other equipment is concerned. Working in darkness or slippery conditions can mean more slips, trips and falls.
And as with a hot summer, travel can become problematic, which is why it is vital that lone workers set out with sufficient supplies, including warm clothes.
Rain, wind, snow and ice can all affect lone workers. The cold can impact on people if they are lone workers at late or early hours in buildings, if the area is not heated sufficiently.
Season’s Greetings, and Lone Working Risks
Christmas may seem quite a way off, but it is worth considering as a time of heightened seasonal risk for lone workers.
Not only might they have to contend with poor weather conditions, but also, unfortunately, an increased threat of physical violence.
People’s alcohol consumption rises over the Christmas period, and with it, the risk to lone workers of suffering aggressive or violent behaviour in the course of doing their work.
There are also increased tensions associated with Christmas to do with money, and the general pressures of the season.
Lone workers should be aware of areas or places which might present these kinds of hazards.
Lone Worker Wellbeing
Personal safety is strongly connected to the wellbeing of lone workers. Many can feel exposed to threat, whether from the clients they must work with – in housing and social work, for example – or the travelling that comes with the job.
Some lone workers can end up dealing with near-constant feelings of unease. This can have a serious impact on their mental health.
They may find they experience spiralling anxiety, and a corresponding loss of self-esteem. In turn, these feelings can then impact on how they do their jobs, and their overall performance.
It is vital, therefore, that employers consider the wellbeing of those members of staff who work for them remotely. Lone worker wellbeing matters to individuals, and to employers, as it can affect long-term productivity and workplace culture.
Support for Lone Workers
As employees, lone workers are a hugely valuable business asset. Consequently, it makes sense for employers to look at systems to help prevent problems for them, as well as policies and procedures to support them, all year round.
First2HelpYou specialises in lone worker safety devices, to help make sure lone workers stay connected and monitored, wherever their work takes them.
We can help you support your lone workers. Contact us at [email protected] or leave your details and a message in the contact form at the foot of this page.