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How to Develop a Lone Worker Policy

A lone worker policy is a formal document that identifies the risks faced by lone workers and outlines the responsibilities of employers and employees in ensuring their safety. Working alone can be dangerous. They work alone or isolated, without close, regular, or direct supervision, and therefore, face higher health and safety risks than those who do not. 

This article will outline how to develop an effective Lone Worker Policy to mitigate these risks and improve your lone worker’s safety. 

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Lone Worker Policy
  2. Lone Worker Policy Legislation
  3. Three Categories of Lone Workers
  4. Real-World Examples of Lone Workers
  5. Key Components of an Effective Lone Worker Policy
  6. How to Create a Lone Worker Policy
  7. The Role of Technology in Lone Worker Safety

What is a Lone Worker Policy?

A lone worker policy is a crafted set of guidelines and procedures. Its primary aim? To safeguard the safety and well-being of employees who find themselves working alone, often in environments without immediate assistance or supervision.

Why is a Lone Worker Policy Essential? 

The significance of these policies cannot be overstated. They provide a practical guide for managers and employees on how to stay safe when working alone. These policies empower lone workers to take responsibility for their own safety and ensure that everyone is prepared to respond in an emergency. 

In many regions, having such a policy isn't just a matter of best practice—it's a legal necessity.

What is the working alone policy in Australia and the United States?

What is the Work Health and Safety Act in Australia? 

The Work Health and Safety Act is a pivotal piece of legislation in Australia, designed to ensure the safety and well-being of all workers. For lone workers, this Act holds particular significance, laying down stringent guidelines to minimize risks and ensure a safe working environment.

Here are some guidelines stipulated that businesses must follow under the act:

  • Implement strategies to safeguard workers in remote or isolated locations.
  • Guarantee that workers have the means to communicate and seek assistance when necessary.
  • Ensure that business operations don't jeopardize the health or safety of others.
  • Ensure a workplace that is safe and free from health risks.
  • Maintain equipment and infrastructure that are safe to use.
  • Implement and maintain safe work procedures.
  • Safely use, handle, and store equipment, buildings, and materials.
  • Provide suitable facilities for workers' well-being, ensuring they can easily access them.
  • Offer necessary information, training, guidance, or oversight to keep everyone safe during their work activities.

What are the OSHA Guidelines for Lone Workers? 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States has set forth specific guidelines tailored for the safety of lone workers. These guidelines, coupled with state-specific regulations, form a comprehensive framework to protect individuals working without close or direct supervision.

Here's a summary of the guidelines (Standard Number: 1915.84 - Working Alone).

If an employee is working by themselves, especially in tight or secluded areas, the employer should:

  • Regularly check on the employee during their shift to make sure they're safe and healthy, based on the nature of their job.
  • Ensure they account for the employee either when their task is done or at the end of their shift, whichever comes first.

The employer can do this by either seeing the employee or speaking with them.

What are the three categories of lone workers?

  1. Transient Workers

What are Transient Workers? A transient worker is someone who moves from place to place to work, often for short periods of time. They may be employed by a single company or by multiple companies. Transient workers can include salespeople, consultancy and field service technicians, among others.  

  1. Fixed-Site Workers

Who are Fixed-Site Workers? Unlike their transient counterparts, fixed-site workers remain stationed at a specific location for their job roles. This category encompasses individuals like security personnel, night shift workers in factories, or museum attendants, who operate alone within a defined space.

  1. Remote Workers

What Defines a Remote Worker? Remote workers operate in areas that are often isolated from urban centers or typical workplaces. Their work settings often lack immediate assistance or conventional communication means. A remote worker might include agricultural workers, forestry professionals, and geological surveyors, to name a few.

Real-world Examples of Lone Working

Geological Surveyor in Remote Areas

What Does a Geological Surveyor's Day Look Like? Imagine embarking on a journey to remote terrains, armed with tools and maps, but often devoid of immediate assistance. This is a day in the life of a geological surveyor. Their tasks involve exploring and analyzing geological formations, often in isolated regions. The challenges? Harsh weather conditions, unpredictable terrains, and potential wildlife encounters. This underscores the critical importance of a robust lone worker policy, ensuring their safety and well-being during such expeditions.

After-Hours Maintenance Technician in Urban Settings

Is Working in Urban Buildings Always Safe? Picture a vast commercial building, long after office hours. This is the workspace of an after-hours maintenance technician. The absence of colleagues or security can pose unique risks. From potential electrical hazards to unexpected intruders, the challenges are manifold. It brings to light the essential need for clear communication protocols, regular check-ins, and stringent safety measures, even in seemingly secure environments.

Key Components of an Effective Lone Worker Policy

Every lone worker policy should be tailored to the specific needs of your organization, legal requirements, and lone worker risks. However, there are some essential elements that all lone worker safety policies should include, regardless of industry.

  1. Purpose statement: Clearly state why your organization has created the policy, how it will keep lone workers safe, and how it aligns with your company's goals and values. This statement should help to engage employees and promote a culture of safety.
  2. Risk identification: Identify the specific risks associated with each lone worker's role. This is essential for developing effective safety procedures.
  3. Processes, procedures, roles, and responsibilities: Define the processes, procedures, roles, and responsibilities of all parties involved in lone worker safety. This includes clear instructions on what lone workers should do to stay safe, how to call for help in an emergency, and who is responsible for responding.
  4. Reporting procedures: Explain how lone workers should report hazards, incidents, and near-misses. This data can be used to improve the policy and procedures over time.
  5. Additional resources and contact information: Make it easy for lone workers to get help and support. Include emergency contact information and other resources, such as training materials.

How to Create a Lone Worker Policy

In the next section, we will expand on the key components of a lone working policy and outline the six key steps in creating your own.

Step 1: Identify all lone worker roles

Lone workers are employees who work alone, without direct supervision. This can include employees who work in remote locations, at night, or in hazardous environments.

To create a comprehensive lone worker safety policy, it is important to first identify all of the lone worker roles in your organization. This will help you to tailor the policy to the specific needs of your lone workers.

It can be challenging to identify lone workers who do not work in isolation or remote locations, such as office employees who leave for meetings, service calls, job sites, or work after hours. However, it is just as important to ensure these roles and tasks are included in the safety management procedures. 

Step 2: Identify and assess the risks

Once you have identified all of the lone worker roles, you need to identify and assess the risks that they face. This includes considering all potential hazards, such as accidents, injuries, violence, and exposure to hazardous substances.

You can conduct a risk assessment for each lone worker role to identify specific hazards and assess the likelihood and severity of each hazard. This will help you to prioritize the risks and develop appropriate safety measures.

Step 3: Define lone-working safety processes and procedures

Once you have identified and assessed the risks, you need to define lone-working safety processes and procedures. This includes developing clear procedures for monitoring lone workers, requesting assistance in an emergency, and responding to emergencies.

You may want to consider using technology such as GPS tracking and panic buttons to help monitor lone workers. You should also make sure that lone workers know how to use these systems and that they are comfortable with them.

For example, lone workers should be able to check in with a supervisor at regular intervals and should have a way to contact for help if needed. Supervisors should be responsible for monitoring lone workers and responding to emergencies.

Step 4: Define roles and responsibilities

It is important to define the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in lone worker safety. This includes lone workers, managers, supervisors, and other relevant personnel.

For example, lone workers should be responsible for following the safety policy and reporting any concerns. Managers and supervisors should be responsible for monitoring lone workers, providing training, and responding to emergencies.

Step 5: Provide health and safety training and resources

It is important to make sure that all employees, including lone workers, understand the lone worker safety policy and how to follow it. You should also provide training on how to identify and assess risks, how to stay safe when working alone, and how to respond to emergencies.

This training should be tailored to the specific needs of lone workers and should be regularly updated.

Step 6: Regularly review and update the policy

The lone worker safety policy should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect changes in the workplace, government regulations, and industry best practices. You should also involve employees in the review process to ensure that the policy is still relevant and effective.

By following these steps, you can create a comprehensive and effective lone worker safety policy that will help to protect your employees.

Tip: if you’re unfamiliar with Lone Worker Policies, we encourage you to take our free Comprehensive Guide to Lone Worker Safety.

The Role of Technology in Lone Worker Safety

Now you may be wondering, how can we ensure our duty of care, develop an effective lone worker policy and execute it? It can seem like a daunting task. But you’re not alone and modern smart technology is making this process significantly easier. 

At SafetyIQ, we have a comprehensive Lone Worker Management Software that provides:

  • ​​Centralised visibility of your entire workforce
  • Effective communication with periodic check-ins
  • A reliable and automated escalation process
  • Proactive and customisable risk assessments

If you’re interested in learning more please check it out here. 

What Devices Enhance Lone Worker Safety? 

A plethora of devices have emerged to bolster the safety of lone workers. 

  • Personal alarms act as immediate distress signals, alerting relevant parties at the push of a button. 
  • GPS trackers, on the other hand, provide real-time location data, ensuring that workers are always on the radar. 
  • Additionally, specialized mobile apps have been designed with lone workers in mind, offering features like fall detection, panic buttons, and geofencing to ensure their safety.

Why is Technology Integral to Lone Worker Safety? 

The integration of technology into lone worker safety protocols brings a multitude of benefits. For starters, it ensures faster response times in emergencies, as real-time monitoring allows for immediate action. Moreover, these technological tools provide invaluable data, capturing insights about worker movements, safety incidents, and more. This data is not just a record – it's a goldmine for policy refinement, allowing organizations to continually enhance their safety protocols based on tangible evidence.

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