Assessing and Mitigating Lone Worker Risk
Lone workers have always had a rough go of it. Now, things are getting worse. What are the latest lone worker concerns? Read on to find out, as well as strategies for assessing and mitigating lone worker risk.
Lone worker risk by the numbers
According to recent survey data, 19 per cent of lone worker professionals report having an accident and struggling to get help. A staggering 44 per cent of lone workers say they feel unsafe while at work.
That’s not all. Lone workers are especially concerned about being out of connectivity range.
The same survey found that only 32 per cent of surveyed respondents were able to track the location of a lone worker out of cell phone range.
Meanwhile, not even half (49 per cent) of respondents reported having the ability to both send and receive messages with lone workers who were out of cell phone range.
That was the same figure when recipients were asked whether they had a procedure that enabled messages to be sent and received without cell phone reception.
How lone worker risk increases
Why does it matter? Lone worker risk increases (a) the longer a lone worker is on the job and (b) when that worker is in a precarious environment, such as outside of connectivity range.
Effectively managing that risk, as such, requires properly assessing it.
To be effective, though, the risk assessment should consider the factors intrinsic to the kind of lone work executed at the organisation. Safety risk managers should make the following inquiries:
- What kind of lone work is being done? Simply knowing whether high-risk activity is involved in lone work isn’t enough. After all, cleaning an office at night carries far different risk than work with heavy machines, at heights, with hazardous substances, or (even) simply in a hazardous plant.
What’s more, risk is dynamic. At first glance, driving might not seem like a high-risk activity. Factor in long hours and the potential for violence and aggression on the road, and risk increases. The same goes for (extreme) environmental conditions.
- Where is the lone work taking place? Often remote and isolated work takes place at a significant geographical remove from emergency response and rescue services, increasing the level of risk.
- When is the lone work being done? Remote and isolated work at night typically increases the risk of exposure to violence.
- How long will the lone work take? Similarly, risks to a lone worker might increase as time (on the job) increases.
- Who are your lone workers? Remote and isolated work is often specialised work. The business unit assigning the work and the team controlling for work-related risk should, therefore, know the lone worker’s level of experience and training. HR should be brought into the loop as well if there’s a pre-existing medical condition that can increase risk.
Finally, safety risk teams need to know what kind of fixed communications the lone worker will have while on the job and whether the remote and isolated work will take place in a location where available communications might be impaired.
What’s next? Once organisations have identified and assessed an acceptable level of lone-worker risk, it’ll be time to implement controls. These are the strategies and tools needed to manage the risk, either to significantly mitigate it or eliminate it altogether.
Which controls can help address lone worker safety concerns? Download our guide to mitigating the safety risk to lone workers to find out.