The Importance of Lone Worker Safety Training
Whether you are working in the office, travelling to visit clients, or working on a site, almost all of us will have experienced a form of lone working in our careers. But according to various studies, individuals who work alone are more susceptible to certain risks and hazards. Therefore, implementing effective training becomes paramount in safeguarding their wellbeing.
Before Lone Working
As a lone worker, it’s important to take precautions before leaving for work to ensure your safety throughout the day. This also applies if you work from home and will be useful in your personal lives too. Here are a few things you can do before you leave:
- Plan your journey there and back, including a backup plan if you are using public transport.
- Check your mobile phone is fully charged so that you can check-in with your employer, contact emergency services or someone you know in an emergency, and most phones have a torch light, which could be useful.
- Make contact if you are going somewhere new, and let someone know the details.
- Check weather conditions and dress appropriately in extreme weather.
- Essentials: a bottle of water, medications, snacks, any work equipment you need, and a phone charger.
- Other considerations: a small basic first aid kit in case of minor injuries, the type of location you’re going to, and the time of day, for example.
Understanding the Risks
Lone workers encounter diverse risks that might not be present in team environments. These risks can include:
- Medical Emergencies: Lone workers face challenges when it comes to immediate medical assistance in case of accidents, injuries, or sudden health issues.
- Physical Hazards: Working in remote or isolated locations exposes individuals to various environmental dangers such as uneven terrain, extreme weather conditions, exposure to harmful substances, or encounters with wildlife.
- Security Threats: Certain job roles put lone workers at risk of theft, assault, or confrontations. Sectors like retail, healthcare, real estate, and security services often encounter such threats.
- Psychological Impact: Isolation, lack of immediate human interaction, and the absence of social support can adversely affect mental health. This includes stress, anxiety, and even depression in some cases.
AWARE is an acronym to help people remember a few essential questions when in a risky situation. These are:
A – Aggression – Are you able to diffuse a situation where a person or animal is behaving aggressively? Or is it safer for you to leave?
W – Weapons – Does the aggressive person have a weapon or something nearby that could be used as a weapon? To reduce the risk, move away from potential weapons.
A – Alcohol – Do you think someone has been drinking or taking drugs? If so, they may behave unpredictably and become more aggressive.
R – Risk Level – Is the incident dangerous? Do you think it could get worse? Report the incident to someone who can help reduce the risk and leave the area if you need to.
E – Exits – What are the closest exits? What is the safest way to leave the building?
Following AWARE will help you to protect your safety by assessing the situation.
For every minute that you are working for your employer, they have a legal responsibility for your welfare, health and safety. They will have created policies and procedures so that, as a lone worker, you have no greater risk than any other employees working for them.
There should also be first aid and welfare support for lone workers too. According to regulations, your employer must also conduct a suitable risk assessment, which must be recorded if they have five or more employees. It is a good idea to keep written records of the risk assessment regardless of how many employees they have.
Your employer is legally required to ensure that extra measures are put in place if you are put at a higher risk than others by working alone. If a task is too risky to be carried out by one person unsupervised, then the employer shouldn’t ask the employee to do the task alone.
An employee should adhere to their organisation’s health and safety procedures and policies along with those relating to working alone. Employees have a legal responsibility for looking after themselves and anyone who may be affected by their work. Employees are also responsible for:
- Informing their employer about broken or damaged equipment
- Reporting accidents, injuries, and any near misses
- Reporting physical or verbal abuse
- Telling their employer about any health and safety incidents at work
- Telling their employer if their health is likely to affect them working alone and supply enough information so adequate measures can be put in place to reduce the risks to their safety
- Keeping personal and emergency contact details up to date
Being a lone worker can make you vulnerable in ways other than risk of violence or having an accident. It can be very isolating and lonely, which can lead some people to have feelings of anxiety. Small struggles can add up and lead you to develop stress and poor mental health. Being aware of your daily moods can help you to look out for signs of a slow decline in your mental health and overall well-being.
Check out your work policies to find out what help your organisation has in place. You could also talk to a colleague, friend, GP, manager or call the Samaritans to talk about the way you feel. Just talking about it can help you move forward and see things more positively.
Lone worker safety training is not just a legal requirement; it’s a moral obligation to prioritise the wellbeing of individuals working in isolated environments. By investing in comprehensive training, employers not only mitigate risks but also foster a culture of safety and care within their organisations.
Remember, ensuring the safety of lone workers is a collective responsibility, and proper training stands as the foundation for their protection and wellbeing.
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