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Lone worker hazards: A deep dive into risks and the role of risk assessment
Dive into the risks faced by lone workers, understand their impact, and learn about the crucial role of risk assessment. Download our guide for more insights.
Although we live in an increasingly connected world, more and more organizations are relying on lone workers to carry out critical tasks, often in remote or high-risk environments that are far from their closest colleagues. As someone who is responsible for the health and safety of your workers, you understand the immense importance of ensuring their well-being and minimizing any potential risks they may face.
Lone or mobile workers are spread across a range of industries, and their unique way of working exposes them to an elevated level of risk. Therefore, it is crucial to provide them with special consideration and take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety.
Berg Insight reports that the combined workforce of Canada, the United States, and Europe comprises approximately 53 million lone workers, accounting for around 15 percent of the total workforce. At such a high percentage, this figure highlights the importance of implementing effective lone worker safety measures and mitigating the risks these workers face.
One crucial step towards achieving this is by conducting a comprehensive risk assessment. A risk assessment involves identifying hazards, evaluating the likelihood of their occurrence, assessing the potential consequences they may have, and exploring ways to mitigate them. In this blog post, we will explore the risks that lone workers face and examine the pivotal role played by comprehensive risk assessments in ensuring their safety and well-being.
Why are lone workers more at risk?
When it comes to the elevated risks faced by lone workers, the nature of the work they are carrying out is not the primary factor. In fact, lone workers encounter similar risks as their counterparts. However, the key distinction lies in the absence of immediate assistance if they fall ill or sustain injuries.
Unlike workers in a team or populated workplace setting, lone workers lack the immediate support and aid that can be readily available in case of emergencies. This lack of immediate assistance underlines the importance of implementing specific safety measures and protocols.
According to a recent survey, almost one in five (19%) lone workers reported having an accident and struggling to get help. This statistic highlights a significant gap in the ability to ensure the safety of lone workers in remote or isolated locations.
This scenario highlights a critical concern for lone workers. In cases where a lone worker experiences severe harm or becomes unconscious, their inability to get help can lead to significant delays in receiving assistance. As a result, a considerable amount of time may elapse before anyone becomes aware of the situation and initiates a search, thereby increasing the likelihood of grave repercussions or even potential fatality. This underscores the urgent need for robust safety protocols and safety solutions that can quickly detect and respond to emergencies faced by lone workers, reducing the risk of such dire consequences.
6 most common risks for lone workers
As we mentioned earlier, to mitigate the risks faced by lone workers and conduct an effective risk assessment, it is crucial to understand the potential risks they may encounter. By identifying these risks and hazards, you can better prepare lone workers with appropriate safety measures.
Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2022, the following incidents were reported as the most common:1. Transportation incidents
Transportation and road accidents continued to be the leading cause of fatal incidents in 2021, and they even experienced an increase compared to the previous year. These statistics emphasize the importance of prioritizing driver safety for all employees who travel frequently.
Workers engaged in vehicle operation for their job, such as delivery drivers, are exposed to various risks, including road accidents, driver fatigue, and distractions while driving. According to a recent report by the Strategic Organizing Center, it was found that nearly 1 in 5 Amazon delivery drivers experienced injuries in 2021.
To mitigate these vehicular hazards, you should consider implementing safety protocols specifically designed for lone workers who travel. This includes providing training on company driving policies, ensuring regular vehicle maintenance and inspections, and utilizing safety features like the drive timer built into our SafteyAware solution, our LifeSaver Mobile solution, or a comprehensive driver behavior monitoring app like our iDriveAware solution.2. Falls, slips, and trips
Work-related fatalities due to falls, slips, and trips increased by 5.6% in 2021, emphasizing them as significant hazards for workers. The risk of falls can be further heightened when working alone since the worker may become incapacitated and be unable to access necessary medical assistance.
While the number of fatalities is indeed alarming, it's important to recognize that numerous minor slips, trips, and falls can still result in significant costs for businesses. In 2020, for instance, 18% of non-fatal work injuries that required time off work were attributed to slips, trips, and falls. This is where innovative solutions, such as the Belle X device, integrated into our SafteyAware solution, and equipped with fall detection capabilities, can assist in adopting a proactive approach to safety.3. Violence or assault
Violence and assault pose significant hazards for lone workers. When individuals work alone, they are more susceptible to potential acts of violence due to factors such as limited or no immediate assistance, isolation, and the absence of witnesses. According to OSHA, approximately 2 million American workers fall victim to workplace violence annually.
Lone workers, especially those in public-facing roles or working in isolated areas, may face increased vulnerability to violence, aggression, or assault. This risk is particularly prominent in industries like healthcare. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that healthcare workers accounted for over three-quarters of all workplace violence incidents nationwide. Furthermore, they were nearly four times more likely to experience serious injuries resulting from workplace violence compared to workers in other settings.4. Contact with objects and equipment
Contact with objects and equipment is a significant hazard for lone workers, carrying various risks for individuals working alone. Whether it involves heavy machinery, electrical equipment, or sharp objects, such contact can result in injuries, accidents, or even fatalities if appropriate precautions are not implemented.
Our SafetyAware solution can effectively minimize the risks associated with contact-related injuries through its comprehensive capabilities. Features such as 24/7 live monitoring, enhanced two-way communication, real-time alerts, and configurable escalation plans enable proactive hazard identification, prompt response to incidents, and effective communication between monitors and workers.5. Exposure to harmful substances or environments
One significant risk lone workers face is exposure to harmful substances or environments. When working alone, they may come into contact with substances or environments that can have detrimental effects on their health and well-being. It's important to note that workers can encounter both visible and invisible hazards, such as chemical fumes and electricity.
In 2021, the alarming rise in worker fatalities due to exposure to harmful substances or environments highlighted the critical need for robust safety measures in the workplace. The annual survey reported a record-breaking 798 worker fatalities, underscoring the urgency for advanced safety solutions. One such solution is our ISC Ventis Gas Detector, which is integrated with SafetyAware.6. Fires and explosions
Approximately 13% of all burn injuries in the United States are attributed to work-related incidents, and this statistic is particularly significant for the oil and gas industry as well as utilities. In these situations, it becomes imperative for lone workers in these industries to possess the necessary knowledge and resources to effectively respond to emergencies and prioritize safety for themselves and others. Swiftly implementing appropriate safety measures becomes crucial in order to save lives and mitigate the risks associated with burn injuries.
The multi-dimensional impact of lone worker hazards
Working alone entails a wide range of hazards that extend beyond immediate physical risks. The hazards of lone working can have a profound impact on both individuals and organizations, encompassing the personal toll, organizational cost, and reputational risks associated with these hazards.
The personal toll
Each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports over 5,000 work-related deaths and 2,600,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the United States. These hazards not only pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of employees, but they also create a need for constant vigilance, isolation, and the potential for encountering dangerous situations. Consequently, these circumstances can contribute to heightened stress levels, anxiety, and even psychological trauma.
It is crucial for employers to prioritize the safety and mental well-being of their lone workers by providing them with the necessary support and safety solutions to manage the challenges they encounter.
The organizational cost
While your primary concern should always be the human tragedy and personal impact of lone worker hazards, it is important to acknowledge that failing to address these hazards can also have significant financial and legal implications for your business. Workplace accidents or injuries can lead to costly compensation claims, medical expenses, and potential legal battles. Furthermore, productivity may suffer due to increased absenteeism and decreased morale among your workers.
According to the National Safety Council, work injuries cost businesses $167.0 billion in 2021. Additionally, 103,000,000 days were lost due to work-related injuries. These figures highlight the substantial importance of an effective risk assessment, training programs, and safety measures. Such investments are not only ethically responsible but also financially prudent.
The reputational risk
Lone worker hazards have the potential to negatively impact your company's reputation and undermine employee morale. News of workplace incidents or accidents involving lone workers can quickly spread and harm public perception of your company.
Clients, potential business partners, and prospective employees may question the company's commitment to safety, which can impact future opportunities and relationships. According to a survey by Ansell, 94% of respondents stated that it is important for their employer to prioritize physical safety in the workplace. Furthermore, 76% expressed a higher likelihood of staying with an employer who prioritizes physical safety.
Safeguarding your lone workers and demonstrating a strong commitment to their well-being is crucial for maintaining a positive reputation and fostering a supportive work environment.
Risk assessment and lone worker safety
When it comes to lone workers, prioritizing their well-being takes precedence. One crucial step in achieving this is conducting a comprehensive risk assessment. This assessment is essential to identifying and mitigating the hazards associated with lone working. By thoroughly evaluating potential risks, you can implement the appropriate safety measures to protect your lone workers.
HSE professionals, executives, CEOs, and HR professionals all play a pivotal role in the process of safeguarding lone workers. Their expertise and active involvement in risk assessment enable a thorough evaluation of the tasks, environments, and potential hazards. By collaborating effectively and adhering to industry best practices, these stakeholders contribute to the development of an effective safety culture.
Gain a comprehensive understanding of the potential hazards and risks associated with your lone workers by conducting a thorough risk assessment. Our specialized risk assessment template is designed to support you in evaluating your unique risk profile and implementing effective measures to manage lone worker safety. Utilize this template to assess and address the specific risks within your organization, ensuring the well-being of your lone workers. Here at Aware360, we want to help you create the safest work environment for lone workers through our comprehensive lone worker safety solutions.
What is a risk assessment and why is it important for lone worker safety?
A risk assessment encompasses the process of recognizing risks, analyzing their likelihood of happening, and evaluating the potential impact they could have on individuals and the organization as a whole.
What are some control measures for lone worker hazards?
Risk assessments: Conduct thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards specific to lone workers.
Safety solution technology: Integrate effective safety solutions that offer live monitoring, two-way communication, real-time alerts, geofencing, fall detection and more
Check-In procedures: Implement check-in procedures to ensure regular contact with lone workers
Emergency response plans: Develop and communicate clear emergency response plans
Training and education: Provide comprehensive training to lone workers on identifying hazards, assessing risks, and implementing appropriate control measures.
Lone worker devices: Consider providing lone worker devices or wearable technology that includes features such as GPS monitoring, panic buttons, etc.
- Regular reviews and updates: Continuously review and update control measures based on feedback, incidents, and changing work conditions
What is the OSHA rule on working alone?
OSHA does not have a specific rule solely dedicated to working alone, but there are key regulations that address the safety of lone workers. Under OSHA 1915.84, employers must account for each employee working alone in confined spaces or isolated locations, ensuring regular monitoring and check-ins for their safety.
The General Duty Clause (OSHA Section 5(a)(1)) requires employers to provide a hazard-free workplace and comply with safety standards, while employees must follow applicable regulations.