Lone Worker Policy

This guide explains what a lone worker policy is, why you need one, how to create a lone worker policy, and the most critical elements to incorporate.

Published 11 Aug 2022

What is a Lone Worker Policy?

A lone worker policy is an official document that establishes your organization's regulations for ensuring the safety of employees who work alone or in isolated environments.

Every lone worker policy should outline general guidance for working safely, potential lone worker hazards and risks, roles and responsibilities, clear and simple safety procedures and processes to follow, tools to use, how to assess and report incidents, and what to do in the event of an emergency.

The specific elements of your lone worker policy may differ, based on your organization’s industry, legal obligations, needs, and the hazards and risks that are common in your field. Your lone worker policy should be reviewed and updated regularly for continuous improvement.

Why and How to Create a Lone Worker Policy

Between healthcare workers providing home visits, surveyors completing site inspections, utility workers operating in dangerous or remote areas, or office employees working from home, lone workers come in many forms. But they all have one important thing in common: they work alone or isolated, without close, regular, or direct supervision, and therefore, face higher health and safety risks than those who do not.

With the rise of lone and remote workers, every organization should prioritize creating a lone worker policy to ensure the safety of their employees.

Why is a Lone Worker Safety Policy Important?

A lone worker safety policy is one of the most important ways your organization can protect the safety and health of its mobile workforce.

When used as a practical, go-to guide for managers and employees, this policy empowers lone workers to take responsibility for their own safety and ensures that everyone is prepared to respond in the event of an emergency.

In addition, it may be legally required of your organization to have a lone worker health and safety policy in place.

Lone Worker Safety Legislation

Australia’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 maintains that, so far as is reasonably practicable, organizations must ensure “the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work” and “the provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety.” It also states that workplaces and workers’ health must be monitored to prevent illness or injury.

Among other countries, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and New Zealand all have similar workplace health and safety laws, stating that employers have a general duty of care to provide and ensure safe workplaces, safe systems and ways of working (policies and procedures), and the health and safety of all employees.

Without implementing a carefully considered lone worker safety policy, your organization and its officers could be in breach of government regulations – and therefore, exposed to workers’ compensation claims, lawsuits, fines, and in some cases, prison time.

Lone Worker Health and Safety Risks

When employees work alone, they are exposed to higher risk of experiencing a serious incident. According to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

  • the workplace itself, for example if it located in a rural or isolated place
  • physical violence in the workplace
  • stress and mental health or wellbeing
  • a person’s medical suitability to work alone

Other very common, high-risk incidents that employees could face include trips, slips, falls, and transportation accidents, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of course, the above is not an exhaustive list of lone worker risks; each industry and every work environment is different. Regularly carrying out Lone Worker Risk Assessments can help your organization identify and assess the specific risks your lone workers face.

Having a lone worker policy in place that mitigates these risks through safe work practices and the use of tools (such as the SHEQSY Lone Worker App) can ensure that employees are safe 24/7 – no matter where they are.

Emergency Response

Without monitoring your lone workers’ activities, you may not find out that an emergency has occurred until it is too late.

Having the right real-time monitoring systems, check-in and reporting procedures, and emergency response coordination processes in place can ensure that organizations know exactly where lone workers are, what they are doing, and that they are safe. Most importantly, when an emergency occurs, lone workers are able to activate their duress and receive the assistance they require.

So how do you monitor employees when they work alone? You can deploy a lone worker safety app. SHEQSY by SafetyCulture is a lone worker safety solution that protects workers in real-time with duress alarms, periodic check-ins, and overtime alerts – while keeping managers informed. Through customized automated notification workflows, you can have confidence that alerts will be sent to the right team leaders every time. Learn more about SHEQSY.

What to Include in a Lone Worker Safety Policy

Your lone worker policy document should be customized to meet the needs of your organization, comply with legal obligations, and mitigate specific lone worker risks. However, there are a few essential elements that every organization should include in their lone working safety policies, no matter the industry.

  • Policy purpose statement: State why your organization has created the policy, how it will keep lone workers safe, and how the policy aligns with your organization’s goals and values. The statement should help to promote employee engagement, use, and commitment; therefore, establishing a culture of safety.
  • Clear identification of lone worker risks: A lone worker safety policy cannot be successful without clearly and specifically defining the risks associated with each lone-working role.
  • Defined processes, procedures, roles, and responsibilities: Your safety policy is not a document that you distribute and file away. It is a manual that requires participation and commitment from everyone. Therefore, your lone worker policy must define lone worker processes and procedures, as well as each person’s roles and responsibilities in detailed, non-negotiable terms – such as what employees must do to stay safe, how to call for help in an emergency, and who must respond.
  • Specific reporting procedures: Detail the steps employees must take to report a hazard, incident, or near-miss. This data will help managers and lone workers learn from any incidents and continuously improve the lone worker policy and its procedures.
  • Additional resources and contact information: Make it easy for lone workers to ask questions or share concerns they have about lone worker safety. Ensure that emergency contact details are easy to find. Additionally, provide more resources and information for further training.

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

How to Create a Lone Working Policy

Step 1: Identify all lone worker roles

Comcare’s Guide to Remote or Isolated Work, published by the Australian Government, defines lone workers as those who “work by themselves and/or work in the community with only limited support arrangements, which therefore expose them to risk by being isolated from the usual back-up support. This is the case whether they regularly work alone or are only occasionally alone and do not have access to immediate support from managers or other colleagues.”

In other words, anyone who works alone, or in an isolated environment where other colleagues cannot see or hear them, is a lone worker.

Start by identifying all of your employees who work alone regularly. Some examples include delivery drivers, home healthcare workers, utility maintenance staff, social workers, and even employees working from their home offices.

It may be more difficult to identify other lone workers, such as those who do not work in continuous isolation or in remote locations. Examples may include office employees who leave for meetings, service calls, or to visit a job site, or employees who work after hours.

Step 2: Identify and assess the risks

Identifying as many lone worker hazards and assessing their risks is critical to the effectiveness of your lone worker safety policy. Ultimately, the goal is to identify (and then rectify) as many health and safety issues as possible.

This Lone Working Risk Assessment Example can guide you through the eight steps involved in identifying and assessing lone worker risks:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Evaluate who (or what) might be harmed and how
  3. Analyze the likelihood and severity of potential incidents
  4. Determine how to minimize the risks and mitigate any hazards
  5. Implement new policies, processes, and procedures
  6. Train your workforce
  7. Record significant findings
  8. Regularly review your lone worker risks

If you identified a variety of different lone worker roles in Step 1, then it may be advisable to complete a lone worker risk assessment for each role. Only then, can you be sure that you have identified all of the common risks your employees could face.

Step 3: Define lone-working safety processes and procedures

With common hazards and risks in mind, set out to create a clear, specific, and practical guide to working alone safely. This section of the policy should be customized to fit your organization’s industry, employees, and other unique factors, but typically should include the following:

  • How lone workers’ activities, locations, and conditions will be monitored
  • How to activate duress/request assistance in an emergency
  • Which management team members should be notified in case of an emergency and how
  • How to complete a welfare check-in and how regularly to do so
  • How to notify lone workers of an emergency occurring in their local area
  • Who should be notified if a lone worker missed check-in and is not responding
  • How lone workers should complete their own dynamic risk assessments to make informed decisions about their safety (link to new article here – it’s not published yet)
  • How lone workers should submit hazard, incident, and near-miss reports
  • After a hazard report is submitted, how to identify and implement corrective and preventive actions
  • How to de-escalate aggression that could lead to physical violence
  • How to evacuate from a hazardous job site
  • How to handle safely handle hazardous materials or toxic chemicals, operate machinery, work from height, etc.
  • Which safety devices and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) are required to work alone
  • How management should complete inspections, audits, and risk assessments and how often

Step 4: Define roles and responsibilities

Next, you must outline the roles and responsibilities of everyone covered in the policy: lone workers, team leaders, managers, supervisors, officers, and if applicable, your professional security monitoring center. This section of the lone worker safety policy should answer these questions:

  • Which procedures do lone workers need to carry out in order to stay safe?
  • What does management need to do or manage to ensure that their lone workers are not exposed to any hazards or risks, so far as is reasonably practicable?
  • What systems must be set up to ensure that lone workers get the assistance they need in the event of an emergency?
  • How can management ensure that employees are following all lone-working procedures?
  • How will your organization ensure that the policy and all lone worker procedures comply with occupational safety laws?

Step 5: Provide health and safety training and resources

Creating a new lone worker policy is pointless unless it is actually followed and referred to regularly. It is very important to ensure that your management team and lone workers understand your lone worker policy, how to use it, and most importantly, why they should.

It may not always be possible to detail all of your standard operating procedures within the policy. It is also important to note that people learn in different ways. Therefore, your lone worker policy should include additional resources, information, and opportunities for training.

Make sure to include information about how employees can:

  • Find more detailed information on your safety practices and policies
  • Ask questions about the lone worker policy
  • Submit suggestions or concerns about the safety of working alone
  • Receive additional training or instructions

Step 6: Regularly review and update the policy

Lone worker roles, workplaces and their conditions, government regulations, and industry best practices can all change over time. Perhaps the most important step in creating a lone worker policy is reviewing, updating, and improving it regularly. Depending on the nature of the work, annual or bi-annual reviews and updates may be wise.

How to Implement Your Lone Working Policies

  • Once your lone worker policy is published, brief your staff on the new policies and provide them the training and resources they need to follow them.
  • Provide copies of the policy to every employee.
  • Ensure that more copies are accessible at all times, on your organization’s website and in printed format.
  • Implement a lone worker solution that not only fortifies your lone worker policy, but that helps you monitor uptake and compliance by collecting data on lone worker activities. 
  • Ensure that you have a process in place for reviewing and updating your current policy for continuous improvement.

Fortifying Lone Worker Policies with SHEQSY

You may be wondering, how can our organization possibly fulfill our duty of care – and our own safety policies – to monitor the health and safety of employees when they are all alone? Not to mention, how can we ensure policy compliance among staff members?

Deploying a lone worker solution is how.

SHEQSY is the leading lone worker safety app that protects employees in real-time and makes it easy to manage, monitor and report on lone worker activities from one dynamic, user-friendly dashboard.

From regular check-ins and overtime alerts, to hazard reporting and emergency notifications, SHEQSY provides a suite of intuitive and fully customizable safety features to ensure your organization can fulfill its lone worker safety policy and legal obligations with ease – while giving your lone workers the tools to stay safe and connected 24/7.

Watch this quick video to see SHEQSY in action:

Interested in learning more? Sign up for SHEQSY here

 

SafetyCulture staff writer

Maddy Cornelius

Maddy is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. She has worked as a digital marketer and copywriter in the risk management industry for more than a decade. When she’s not writing for SafetyCulture, Maddy runs a popular travel and food blog and enjoys snowboarding, practicing yoga, hiking, and spending time exploring outdoors.

Maddy is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. She has worked as a digital marketer and copywriter in the risk management industry for more than a decade. When she’s not writing for SafetyCulture, Maddy runs a popular travel and food blog and enjoys snowboarding, practicing yoga, hiking, and spending time exploring outdoors.