Lone Worker Risk Assessments & Policies

Lone Worker Risk Assessments & Policies
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Regardless of the industry, there are several threats that all lone workers face, namely unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies, inadequate rest and breaks, and physical violence. To ensure lone worker safety and regulatory compliance, organizations should regularly complete lone worker risk assessments and develop corresponding lone worker policies. Here, we describe these procedures and provide key guidance and insights.

Lone Worker Risk Assessments

Lone worker risk assessments are an important component of maintaining regulatory compliance and ensuring duty of care is met for lone workers. These assessments are broken down into two categories: formal risk assessments and dynamic risk assessments.

Formal Risk Assessments

Formal risk assessments, which are typically done before an employee begins working, are systematic, evidence-based reviews that include the identification of regular workplace hazards, typical working environments, and people who may come in contact with the lone worker. 

Formal risk assessments occur on a regular basis, are prepared in advance, and are carefully recorded and monitored. The results of these assessments serve to help employers identify appropriate measures for preventing and addressing lone worker safety and security concerns. To conduct these assessments, many organizations use a risk matrix.

Dynamic Risk Assessments

In addition to formal risk assessments, employers often need to conduct dynamic risk assessments (DRAs). Dynamic risk assessment is the process of continually observing and analyzing hazards in order to remain aware and responsive to changing threats. These are typically mental assessments that employees or employees perform on the spot when entering a new or high-risk environment. 

DRAs are more reactive than traditional risk assessments, and they are ongoing and situational. When arriving in a new or potentially threatening environment, on-the-spot DRAs typically break down into a few core components:

    1. Assess the situation. Particularly in new or high-risk environments, be aware of potential concerns or threats.
    2. Have an exit plan. Remain aware of all nearby doors, stairwells, and emergency exits, and develop a clear evacuation strategy.
    3. Consider mitigation strategies. Is it safe to continue with your current task, or should you alter your behavior or exit the situation?
    4. Take action. Once a threat has been identified, make an informed decision and take the necessary steps to address the situation.
    5. Document everything. Inform necessary personnel of the situation and consider adding additional considerations to your traditional risk assessments.

Performing Risk Assessments

In day-to-day operations, a formal risk assessment should be conducted for the typical working environment of a lone worker, while dynamic risk assessments can come in handy when a work experience is beyond that scope. For example, a lone public works employee may encounter unexpected flooding or an aggressive client; these are not risks that a formal assessment would not have been able to identify ahead of time. In this situation, the lone worker will have to assess and then attempt to mitigate the risk on the spot using a dynamic risk assessment. Both types of risk assessment should be regularly conducted by both employers and employees.

Lone Worker Policies

After conducting a thorough risk assessment, employers should develop comprehensive lone worker safety policies. These policies are written guides that present common and potential risks as well as your organization’s rules and expectations for lone workers. They should include your completed risk assessment, clear safety and health instructions, and details of your organization's lone worker solutions (ex: hazard reporting tools).

When developing your policy, here is some guidance to keep in mind:

  • Keep it up to date. Each time you complete a new risk assessment, incorporate new policies or solutions, such as a new training course, into your lone worker documents.
  • Focus on clarity. Use clear, concise language that is understandable by all employees. This may include developing a structured document layout, creating subsections, and providing the policy in more than one language.
  • Consider employee input. Empower employees to regularly report their questions and concerns. This will ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of workforce risk and that employee-related concerns are included in the documentation.
  • Contextualize your guidance. Ensure that employees understand why this policy is being developed and emphasize your commitment to lone worker safety. Remind your workforce that lone worker guidance is required. Focus on clear, strong word choice (i.e. “you must” rather than “you should.)

Lone worker procedures are a critical component of this policy. A series of procedures should be developed to address a range of worker risks and considerations. This may include the following:

  • How and when to use lone worker solutions, such as mobile apps, training portals, safety data management platforms, and on-site resources
  • Common emergency response strategies, such as evacuation procedures
  • Critical emergency response strategies, such as active shooter procedures
  • Guidance on how to respond to aggressive animals, clients, intruders, or members of the public that may be encountered while working alone
  • Expectations for how and when to check in with supervisors
  • Information about how to respond to suspicious activity or unauthorized visitors on lone worker sites

Once you have developed a lone worker policy and corresponding procedures, host a briefing and training session so that employees are aware of their responsibilities when working alone. Employees should also be made aware of the policy’s location so that they know how and where to access it in times of need.

Protecting Lone Workers

Lone worker safety is a key concern for organizations of all sizes in all industries. To maintain lone worker safety on worksites, in the workplace, and on the road, employers should prioritize comprehensive risk assessments and develop effective lone worker policies. In addition to these processes, many organizations may benefit from deploying a mobile risk intelligence communications platform such as Vector LiveSafe.

With features such as mass notifications, anonymous tip submission, and customizable resources, Vector LiveSafe empowers your lone workers to stay safe, regardless of their worksite. To learn more about how Vector LiveSafe can protect your workforce and facilitate incident prevention, download the LiveSafe Feature Flyer or request a demo.

For further information about lone worker risks and safety considerations, download our free guide, "Lone Worker Safety: Risks, Considerations & Solutions."

ALEXANDRA BRUNJES

Alexandra Brunjes has a B.S. in Neurobiology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with minors in Creative Writing and French. She is a published journalist and experienced health and science writer. Her expertise includes risk intelligence, healthcare and neuroscience, and technology.

Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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