Particularly as organizations digitalize, the number of lone workers is on the rise -- and with it, the importance of ensuring lone worker safety. Lone workers are at increased risk for workplace accidents or emergencies, inadequate rest and breaks, and physical violence. Here, we discuss key considerations for lone worker safety in a variety of industries.
Lone workers are employees that perform job duties alone or without supervision. They exist in every industry and include contractors, self-employed people, and employees who work off-site or outside normal hours.
Examples of lone workers include:
Regardless of the industry, there are several threats that all lone workers face, the first being injury. If a lone worker is injured on the job, they do not have a coworker nearby to help them ameliorate the situation or contact help. Depending on the industry, performing tasks alone can also increase the chance of injury.
Lone workers also face an increased risk for assault or violence on the job. This may be from members of the public, intruders, or customers. Violence is particularly common with lone workers who perform client-facing jobs where they operate alone, such as real estate workers, health care workers, and public utility workers. When working alone, workers may be unable to defend themselves against assailants or request help if injured.
A lower-risk, higher-likelihood threat is worker fatigue and inadequate breaks. Depending on the industry, lone workers may have difficulty accessing hygiene and welfare facilities or may take inadequate breaks since they are completing tasks alone.
Organizations with lone workers should consider all of these threats and develop corresponding prevention and response strategies. Now, we will provide more insight on lone worker threats in four specific industries: commercial real estate, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, and utilities. While this list is not comprehensive, it covers key threats in several industries with large numbers of lone workers.
Lone workers in real estate primarily include real estate agents, property managers, surveyors, and property developers. Since these employees typically work alone at properties, they are primarily at risk for injury, intruders, and violence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are over 18 million health care workers in the United States. Particularly as the health care industry digitalizes and faces staffing reductions, workers face increased lone work. In addition, home health workers typically commute and treat patients alone. Lone health care workers face risks including violent patients, slip and falls, supply and property thefts, and active assailants.
The hospitality industry comprises a large number of lone workers. Lone hospitality workers include front desk staff, housekeepers, night shift managers, facilities and maintenance staff, and more. This puts them at risk for physical, verbal, or sexual abuse from guests or intruders, unaddressed injuries, and threats associated with working late at night, such as intoxicated guests or criminal activity.
The manufacturing sector in the United States employs over ten million workers in the United States. Many manufacturing workers spend time working alone and may be using specialized equipment, heavy machinery, or chemicals. As a result, risk of injury is high.
Utilities regularly commute to and work alone on worksites, empty properties, and at customer homes. At times, this work can occur at sites with high risk of injury, such as on high power lines. Common risks for lone utility workers include electrical current exposure, structural collapse in confined spaces, injuries due to animals, and harassment from customers or the public during home visits or fieldwork.
There are several tactics that organizations can employ to mitigate lone worker risk. The first is by identifying lone worker hazards and assessing each risk. Employees should be made aware of these risks and educated on best practices for prevention and response.
It’s also valuable to have a lone worker policy. This policy can information about the risks facing lone workers and details the roles of the employers and employees in ensuring safety. This information should also be shared during employee training.
Effective communication is also key to lone worker safety. Workers should have easy access to employee policies, immediate guidance from supervisors, and emergency assistance. One way to streamline communications is by implementing a risk management platform such as Vector LiveSafe.
The LiveSafe platform offers features such as Broadcast notifications, two-way messaging, and customizable resources. This enables lone workers to easily communicate with superiors, access safety information and policies in times of need, and request immediate assistance if they are in crisis.
To learn more about how LiveSafe can help your organization protect lone workers, visit our website or request a demo. For further information about lone worker risks and safety considerations, download our free guide, "Lone Worker Safety: Risks, Considerations & Solutions."