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These are the most typical dangers that our lone workers face today

These are the most typical dangers that our lone workers face today 

The below are the most common risks and dangers that lone workers face. What can business owners and employers do to mitigate these risks?

Most workplace injuries are caused the “fatal four” dangers: being struck by an object; electrocution; falls; and being caught between industry related equipment. Every one of these threats poses substantial dangers on the job — but when it comes to lone workers, that risk is magnified.

The definition of a lone worker covers several positions in maintenance, laboratory work, manufacturing as well as employees who interact with the public in general, such as late-night store operators. The increased risks that lone workers face is a consequence of a lack of direct or frequent supervision.

Statistics in the United Kingdom offer some insight and shed some light into the matter: lone workers make up 20% of the workforce, a surprising number of which face an increased risk of injury. Throughout the following lines we will look at some of these risks.

Top risks for lone workers

1. Workspace violence: Lone workers that are public-facing or carrying out their jobs in remote areas are especially vulnerable to workspace violence. In the United Kingdom, the ONS or Office for National Statistics found that over a hundred lone workers experience violence each and every day. This is a particularly important problem in the NHS or National Health Services, where lone workers make up around ten per cent of the workforce and over five per cent report having experienced violence on the job.

2. Falls: Falls, slips, and trips kill several workers every year. This risk is much greater for lone workers. If a worker is incapacitated as a consequence of the fall, he or she may not be able to call for help — even when carrying a communication device. Such accidents can go unnoticed for hours or even days at times if regular check-ins are not arranged.

3. Hit by objects: A direct contact with an object or piece of equipment is one of the main causes responsible for the death of a large number of lone workers. This includes being caught in equipment, being struck by falling objects, and being caught between collapsing structures. As with other dangers for lone workers, victims of those types of accidents might not be noticed and might not be able to ask for help if they are unable to move or they are immediately incapacitated.

4. Cardiac arrest: Sudden cardiac episodes at the workplace are much more frequent that one might think. For lone workers, this is simply a matter of life and death. As a matter of fact, many lone workers face an even higher risk due to working with electricity or operating in hazardous spaces.

How can we protect our lone workers?

– Frequent check-ins: Supervisors and managers should confirm the safety and wellbeing of lone workers during intervals suitable to the task being carried out. A short lone shift may require only one check-in, while longer periods will need regular contact. This means lone workers will have to be equipped with very reliable communications devices. Smartphones will not serve their function here, particularly because many lone workers operate in areas that will not receive adequate coverage.

– Risk analysis: In the United Kingdom, many organisations and businesses with lone workers are required to perform a risk assessment to demonstrate that lone workers will not be facing greater hazards than non-lone workers. Questions to ask may include:

  • In case of an emergency, how fast could help reach the lone worker?
  • Would the workers be safer if they were not alone?
  • Can the lone worker lift all necessary loads by himself / herself?
  • Can the worker operate emergency structures such as ladders and scaffolds alone?
  • Does the lone worker have any conditions that would put him / her at greater risk?

– Alert Systems: Many versions of a lone worker app and different technologies have been developed to protect employees that work alone. The ubiquity of intelligent devices makes applications seem like a good idea, however these have many drawbacks. Smartphones are very limited by Wi-Fi and coverage or reception, while several lone workers operate in remote spaces. The best insurance when it comes to lone worker security and safety is dedicated devices running on a dedicated network, as well as “man down” protocols that will alert supervisors and managers of potential issues on their own — without an alert from the lone worker.

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