Lone Workers: Understanding and Managing Risk Webinar Recap

According to the Berg Insight, there are 53 million lone workers worldwide. In the United States, OSHA does not define “lone working”, but several states have loose guidelines that your company could adhere to. Lone work is a high risk activity and should be defined, monitored, protected by your company if you allow it. Nicole Vazquez, founder of Worthwhile Training, gave Everbridge practical advice to manage the risks associated with employee safety, security, and wellbeing, and how to train your lone workers to stay safe on the job.  

Lone working is unique to each organization. To begin a lone working assessment, businesses should first look at what is considered a risk to your organization and conduct a specific risk assessment. This means, if a competent person is in the lone working environment, what risks could he or she encounter to interrupt business continuity.

“Organizations have a general duty to keep a workplace free from recognized hazards, even if the employee is remote,” says Vazquez.

Task-based risk assessments are also critical in providing a holistic view of the individual lone worker workspace. Lone worker risks vary across industries, companies, job title, and job function so it is almost impossible to recognize individualized risks with a broad view.  

One way to analyze lone working workspaces and diagnose whether a worker should be alone is through the PET2 Risk Assessment Tool. First, we audit person and people. “We look at whether the lone workers themselves could create an issue, then move on to people they may come in contact with,” says Vazquez. This could range from if the worker has medical issues or is too inexperienced to be left alone, to a scenario where the lone worker is tasked with repossessing property, or another unpleasant human interaction.  

The ‘E’ in PET2 stands for environment and equipment. “This is about whether those two things can pose a risk, or the lack of equipment might pose a risk,” continues Vazquez. For example, if the environment is in a rural or isolated area, it may inhibit communication if a critical event does occur.

If a lone worker is using heavy equipment and gets injured on the job, how would they communicate back to the office that the incident occurred? Or, if a lone worker brings equipment to a site and it gets stolen, what are the next steps that need to be taken?

As you can see, lone working tasks run the gambit, so it is crucial to take a task oriented approach to the assessment.  

Lastly, the ‘T’ in PET2 stands for tasks and triggers. “Some instances you may have workers who are dealing with clients and have to ask difficult, sensitive questions, or discuss sensitive issues or bad news,” concludes Vazquez. When the worker performs an assigned task, you must assess whether the task could trigger a negative response, then provide a playbook on how to deal with the adverse reactions. Tasks and triggers also applies to security breaches and compliance. A lone worker using an unsecure Wi-Fi connection could leave confidential company information vulnerable.  

Once the PET2 Risk Analysis is complete, it’s important to develop rule books around them.

“I’ve never met a piece of paper that’s kept somebody safe, but actually it is really important organizations have this idea of policies and procedures,” quips Vazquez.

The policies should be an umbrella document that you can use and customize for each lone working job description. You will need buy-in from employees and managers, and keep them engaged throughout. The documents should be dynamic and be altered as lone workers experiences different events. In this document, language needs to be developed around reporting incidents. It’s as important to capture near-miss incidents, along with actual incidents because it helps you build risk profiles that you can use to train individual lone workers.  

Training lone workers on how to be a lone worker is an almost impossible feat. It depends on what the job description of each employee is.

“It may be how you apply first aid to yourself as a lone worker, or it could be about manual handling if you are on your own. Additionally, it could be about how to diffuse a potential aggression or violence if you are on your own. You can see straightaway that we’re having to build the material depending on the job that people do,” Vazquez says.

Once this is determined, the organization needs to decide what it will do for its lone workers if an incident does occur. Then we can develop frameworks for different training sessions.  

Nicole Vazquez spoke at length about her experiences in developing training programs for companies with lone workers in our free, on-demand webinar “Lone Workers: Understanding and Managing Risk.” If you’d like to learn more, you may listen to the webinar at your leisure. One-way companies can mitigate lone worker risk is through Everbridge Incident Management. It can be configured to fit the needs of any organization with customizable variables and a separate incident response plan by location, line of business, or facility. 

If you’re interested in additional lone worker content, visit our topic page here.