Understanding and managing lone worker risk

lone worker risk

Javier Colado, SVP of International Sales at Everbridge shares his views on understanding and managing lone worker risk, with a focus on helping to keep people safe and businesses running

There are 53 million lone workers across Europe, America and Canada, accounting for around 15% of the overall workforce, according to Berg Insight. With advances in technology continuing to facilitate and improve mobile and remote working capabilities, this is a trend that we can expect to grow.

Lone workers are defined by The Health and Safety Executive as ‘individuals who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’ and are often exposed to and more vulnerable to risks that many office-based workers may not be. Examples of these types of jobs include security staff, maintenance and healthcare workers, taxi drivers and even some shop workers. For employers, migration towards lone working in today’s evolving workforce brings with it a new and complex set of challenges in terms of ensuring the health, safety and welfare of all lone workers that they employ. It is, therefore, imperative that organisations develop a robust strategy for assessing and controlling lone worker risk and are equipped to do so with an arsenal of appropriate and advanced policies, procedures
and systems.

Assessing lone worker risk

In the UK, The Health and Safety Executive broadly outlines that lone workers should not be put at more risk than other employees. However, as lone working Javier Colado, SVP of International Sales at Everbridge shares his views on understanding and managing
lone worker risk, with a focus on helping to keep people safe and businesses running and the risks affecting lone workers vary for every business, it is vital that organisations first define their own set of core standards and values. These could include permitting lone working for only low-risk activities, ensuring that lone workers are sufficiently trained
and experienced and having clearly defined channels of communication with a tested and trusted emergency response procedure.

Once standards have been defined, a thorough risk assessment can be developed and implemented to provide a complete view of a company’s working environment according to job role and responsibility. This will enable specific risks affecting lone workers to
be identified.

A popular framework used for this type of analysis is the PET2© risk-assessment tool, which outlines three key areas for consideration:

Person and people – is there anything about the lone worker or the people they come into contact with that could pose a risk to their safety?

Environment and equipment – is there anything about the environment or equipment, or lack of, which could pose a potential risk?

Task and triggers – what is it about the activity being carried out that might lead to a problem or create risk for the lone worker?

Implementing control measures: Policies and procedures

Once steps have been taken to identify the risks affecting lone workers, organisations need to determine the most appropriate and effective control measures for their business and build these into a unique and robust set of policies and procedures. In practice, this should be an umbrella document with customised policies for each job role. It should also be
subject to regular revisions from the individuals that it aims to safeguard as not only will this keep company policies up to date, it will help to ensure buy-in and cooperation is received across the organisation at every level.

Implementing control measures: Systems and communication

In the same way that significant advances in technology are facilitating a growing trend towards lone working, so too are they providing organisations with the capabilities
to support and sustain a more mobile workforce. In this respect, it is fundamental that businesses have the right systems in place in order to effectively manage risk and ensure lone worker wellbeing when a critical incident occurs.

This should include being able to quickly locate and communicate with a lone worker in the event of a critical incident of any scale, for example, through utilising location-aware technology. This can be done with a platform that garners location data from multiple
sources, including access control and badging systems, wired and wireless network access points, office hotelling systems and corporate travel management systems. With access to all of this information, organisations can quickly locate any employees who may be in harm’s way and implement a response plan.

For critical communications systems such as this to beeffective as a means of mitigating lone worker risk, it is important that they are proactive and two-way. Lone workers should be able to reactively notify their employers of a potential risk or critical incident when it
occurs and organisations should be able to reach and notify them of information that could allow potentially hazardous situations to be avoided completely.

With growing numbers of employees working remotely or without supervision, there has never been a better time for organisations to address the specific risks facing lone workers in their care. The ability to connect and unify a sometimes-disparate workforce through effective communications not only holds the key to lone worker safety but also stands to positively affirm an organisation’s continued commitment and dedication
to its workforce. ■

1 PET and PET2 are copyright of Nicole Vazquez Worthwhile Training (PET
© Nicole Vazquez 2000 and PET2 © Copyright Nicole Vazquez 2014)

Javier Colado
SVP of International Sales
Tel: +44 (0)800 035 0081


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