As the number of lone and remote workers continues to grow, it is important that organizations adopt lone worker solutions to protect them.
Published 11 Aug 2022
Lone worker solutions are a way to help ensure that lone workers are able to carry out their work and other responsibilities safely and that they are being given ample support to complete their tasks. Lone worker solutions not only help organizations stay compliant with regulations surrounding lone work but also help keep lone workers and other stakeholders maintain open communications in order to be able to ask for or provide assistance whenever needed.
Working alone exposes employees to a variety of hazards—and without access to direct supervision or backup support—risks to lone workers’ health and safety are more significant. Deploying the right lone worker solution can keep remote team members connected and safe in real-time, while keeping managers informed of their activities.
Before implementing a lone worker solution, you should first consider your organization’s legal obligations, current safety policies and procedures, and the specific hazards and risks your lone workers face.
Lone worker safety is finally getting the attention it warrants. More and more, governments worldwide are enacting legislation to ensure organizations protect their most vulnerable workers, as well as issuing recommendations on the best ways to do so. Some governments have also outlined serious penalties (from fines to prison sentences) relating to lone worker health and safety failures.
As you will see, without a sophisticated, robust lone worker solution in place, it is very difficult for organizations to comply with lone worker health and safety obligations.
The Australian Government requires that all organizations ensure the health and safety of their employees. Broad requirements include:
According to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, serious penalties may be applied to a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) if they have a health and safety duty, fail to comply, and their failure exposes an individual to a risk of death, serious injury, or illness. Penalties could include $150,000 fines for non-PCBU individuals, $300,000 fines for PCBU individuals or officers, and $1,500,000 fines for body corporates.
In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act of 1970‘s General Duty Clause states that all employers must provide employment and a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are causing, or could cause, death or serious physical harm to employees.
Specifically relating to employees working alone, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) code 1915.84 – Working alone outlines that employers must account for employees whenever they work alone (for example, in an isolated location or in a confined space). Employers must do so regularly, throughout a shift, at the end of the job assignment or shift, via either sight or verbal communication.
The Government of Canada requires employers to implement preventative measures including eliminating or reducing hazards, providing the proper tools, equipment, and protective gear, and creating safe work procedures.
The Canada Labour Code section (z.03) also maintains that employers are required to develop, implement, and monitor an established workplace hazard-prevention program that is appropriate to the organization’s size and the nature of the hazards. Health and safety education or training for employees is also required.
In regards to lone workers, the Government of Canada recommends improving “emergency notification and response time in the event of an accident involving an employee working alone.” Further, they state that implementing personal, automatic alarm (tools) and established check-in times are two ways that organizations can safeguard employees carrying out high-risk activities.
Similar to Australian law, New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 outlines a general duty to eliminate or minimize risks to welfare, health, and safety – as far as is reasonably practicable.
Employment New Zealand offers recommendations to promote lone worker safety, including providing an effective means of receiving help quickly in an emergency and promoting contact or check-ins with another person at regularly scheduled intervals.
In addition, New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016 outlines that PCBUs must manage lone and isolated workers’ health and safety risks and have an effective communication system with lone and isolated workers. Violations of this regulation may lead to fines up to $10,000 for individuals and fines up to $50,000 for any other persons.
The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive published a guide, Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone, detailing how employers can keep their lone workforce safe and healthy. It states that working alone is often safe, but the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to consider and rectify any health and safety risks before employees are allowed to work alone.
The guide recommends implementing a lone worker solution for monitoring and keep in touch with lone workers. The solution should incorporate:
The strict regulations and penalties in place around lone worker safety exist for a reason: lone, isolated, and remote employees are inherently exposed to a higher risk of incident, injury, and death simply because they are working alone – without direct supervision or backup support.
Some of the broad reasons why organizations require lone worker safety solutions are as follows.
Deploying a safety solution and ensuring its use helps organizations comply with workplace health and safety laws, while reducing their liability and keeping records of employee activities, hazards, and incidents (which is also often required by law).
Lone worker safety policies require a great deal of consideration. Organizations that do not have detailed lone worker safety procedures in place or systems for carrying out lone worker risk assessments (link to new article) may not realize their exposures.
Deploying a remote worker protection solution can make it easy for organizations to create robust lone worker safety policies, processes, and procedures – and actually fulfill them.
Many digital safety solutions are fully customizable and can be tailored to meet each organization’s requirements. For example, SHEQSY can be configured by team or individual, offers customizable emergency escalation chains, and can even be professionally monitored 24/7 for you.
The nature of every lone-working role is different. Some work is inherently more dangerous. Some work environments are static (i.e. home office), while others are constantly changing (i.e. inspection sites, mobile patient visits, construction sites) – which is why training your employees to carry out dynamic lone worker risk assessments (there’s a draft article for this topic waiting for review) is necessary.
In addition to the inherent hazard of working alone, some common lone worker hazards include:
SHEQSY‘s intuitive safety auditing, checklist, and hazard reporting features help organizations move from reactive to proactive lone worker safety.
Lone worker solutions keep employees connected with organization leaders in real-time, giving everyone peace of mind. Lone worker GPS location visibility, activity data, and regular check-ins are necessary in coordinating an effective emergency response.
SHEQSY’s lone worker app provides real-time location visibility, welfare status, and activity countdown timers for each employee. (This information is always employee-activated to protect their personal privacy.) This critical data is fed into one dynamic dashboard, making it easy for leaders to monitor, manage, and report on lone worker activities.
Deploying a safety solution equips lone workers to deal with the unexpected. In case of an emergency, lone workers need an effective way to call for and receive assistance.
Innovative solutions offer quick and easy duress activation (such as SHEQSY’s QuickPanic and Shake for Panic features), automated periodic check-ins, and overtime alerts. If required, SHEQSY also integrates with lone worker devices (i.e. panic buttons, pendants, and satellite devices) to offer man-down/fall detection and support outside of mobile coverage.
Gone are the days where loose manual systems and costly buddy systems make the cut. Today, the need for a robust, intelligent, and innovative lone worker solution is clear.
Some of the most common lone worker solutions in use across industries include vehicle GPS tracking, call centers, phone-based systems, lone worker pendants, and lone worker apps.
Still, only one of these solutions is reliable, scalable, and customizable enough to effectively protect lone workers.
This Lone Worker Safety Solution Comparison Guide evaluates the different solutions available to help you identify the most effective one for your organization.
GPS vehicle tracking is hardwired into a vehicle and continuously tracks the location of the vehicle. Vehicle tracking solutions may enable employees to carry lone worker pendants that connect back to the vehicle communications when they are within a certain distance of the vehicle.
These systems are often expensive, provide very little data beyond location (i.e. no health, safety, or job activity data) and cannot be enabled/disabled as necessary to protect personal privacy.
Call centers require remote workers to call in before going to work and when check-ins are due. If employees miss a check-in, the call center follows up in accordance with your organization’s safety procedures.
Consistent access to a phone and good phone signal are required. GPS location tracking is usually not factored into this solution. Call centers are an expensive solution with less value-added than other solutions.
Phone-based systems require lone workers to use mobile phones to check-in with managers via calls or SMS texts. In some cases, calls and texts are automated.
Phone-based systems are user-friendly and familiar. However, there is no simple, swift way to raise a duress alert, location information is not readily available, and costs vary widely depending on the systems.
Stand-alone pendants are personal safety devices that typically operate on the 3G or 4G cellular network. They can be worn as lanyards, wristwatches or attached to belt clips. Duress is activated with the push of a button.
Pendants provide accurate GPS location and a quick, discreet way to request emergency assistance. As a standalone device, a pendant does not offer any other valuable information, and are therefore most effective when integrated with a lone worker app.
A lone worker app, sometimes referred to as a personal safety app, is the most flexible solution.
Generally speaking, lone worker apps enable organizations to monitor employees in real-time with location visibility, periodic check-ins, overtime alerts, and duress alerts. Duress events can usually be managed in-house or by a 24/7 security monitoring center. As digital solutions, lone worker apps can integrate with other tools you use. Some solutions offer other innovative safety management features such as hazard reporting, auditing forms, checklists, and navigation, increasing operational efficiencies.
Deployed across employees’ existing smartphones, there are typically no upfront costs.
Move from reactive to proactive lone worker safety with SHEQSY.
Whether your workers are healthcare professionals carrying out home visits, utility workers servicing hazardous or remote areas, or surveyors completing site inspections, SHEQSY makes it easy to protect them in real-time. 24/7. No matter where they are.
SHEQSY’s lone worker app (for iOS & Android) is easy to use, providing remote workers with intuitive ways to raise a duress alarm, check-in periodically, report hazards, share location notes, and more. All of this critical data automatically feeds into one dynamic, cloud-based dashboard, making it easy for organization leaders to monitor, manage, and report on lone worker activities.
From helping you comply with legal requirements to increasing operational efficiency, SHEQSY’s comprehensive solution makes lone worker safety easy.
Try SHEQSY for free for 30 days. Unlimited users. No obligations. No credit card required.
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.
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