Maintaining lone worker safety is an important employer responsibility. To properly protect lone workers, organizational leadership must consider Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, lone worker best practices, and employee expectations. Here, we outline several key considerations for organizations with lone workers in the United States and offer a free guide, Lone Worker Safety: Risks, Considerations & Solutions.
There are two key OSHA standards that must be considered when developing lone worker policies and procedures:
According to this standard, employers must ensure that lone employees are regularly accounted for by sight or verbal communication. This includes checking in at regular intervals and at the end of a lone worker’s shift to confirm their health and safety. In addition to these check-ins, the risk of worker injury can also be avoided by deploying a mobile platform that enables employees to quickly and reliably access organizational policies and request help if needed.
The General Duty Clause requires employers to make a reasonable effort to ensure that all employees, including those working alone, do not encounter workplace hazards. For lone workers operating in locations with unforeseen hazards, such as in the field or at customer homes, employers can abide by this clause by regularly checking in with employees, developing intuitive employee reporting and communication processes, and updating risk assessments and lone worker policies to recognize new and evolving hazards.
In addition to these standards, there may be industry-specific regulations to keep in mind, such as 29 CFR 1910.134 for firefighter respiratory protection, 29 CFR 1910.146 for confined space work that requires permits, and 29 CFR 1910.120 for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HazWOPER) considerations.
The duty of care is a moral and legal principle describing an employer’s obligation to promote employee health and safety and to protect its workforce from undue risk. This includes identifying and mitigating hazards and establishing measures to safeguard employees, regardless of the worksite. To develop a duty of care program, employers must consider the nature of their work environments, employee responsibilities and tasks, and the necessary materials and equipment required to successfully complete the job.
Depending on the organization and industry, duty of care may include providing certain workplace materials, establishing a reporting process, and soliciting ongoing employee feedback. Employees should also be made aware that they are expected to act prudently and comply with local, state, and organizational guidance and policies.
Duty of care programs may entail the following:
Currently, most successful organizations have a duty of care program to protect their workforce and to safeguard their business in the event of a lawsuit or worker’s compensation claim. These programs focus on understanding foreseeable risks and incidents and developing corresponding employee training and prevention and response strategies. There is no set standard for duty of care programs, so each employer should develop it to suit their organization’s industry, size, location, common risks, and more.
In addition to OSHA regulations, organizations must abide by relevant state and local guidance and consider industry- and organization-specific risks. This can help avoid lone worker injury, illness, and fatality, as well as subsequent lawsuits and/or OSHA accident investigations.
Maintaining lone worker health and safety should include:
Employees should also be made aware of all lone worker expectations, policies, and response strategies so they are prepared to exercise best practices while working alone, regardless of the worksite. This may include providing training videos, relevant policies and procedures, and an easy means of communicating questions and concerns.
To learn more about lone worker considerations, including employer responsibilities, effective policies and risk assessments, and more, download our free guide, Lone Worker Safety: Risks, Considerations & Solutions.