The potential risks involved in labor work are many. Workplace hazards contribute towards the majority of incidents that occur in the workplace. Controlling such hazards to ensure worker’s safety is challenging for any employer, but it is even more challenging when a worker is isolated and away from direct supervision of the employer.
Lone workers are common in the workplace. Their safety is something that poses a bigger challenge for organizations to overcome.
Lone workers are more prone to injuries
Height accounts for the leading factor of workplace injuries and deaths. Consider the following scenario where a lone worker is performing task near potential hazards, and there is one else to communicate an emergency rescue. It is relatively easy for organizations to implement safety protocols within the workplace, but workers who assume roles such as utilities and service and repair cannot benefit from them.
Some of the people working in the logistics department are truck drivers. These truck drivers are exposed to long hours on the road with little to no breaks during the journey. It presents the risk of strains and soreness in the body because these workers sit idle in one position for extended periods of time. Driving on the road with the risk of traffic incidents is only amplified when such workers begin to experience fatigue or physical pain. But due to the nature of their work they have to keep up with the delivery timeline.
Repair workers visit places which are alien to them. The employer cannot ensure the installation of safety system on the client’s premises. Design approaches are expected to be unideal for work; it presents the risk of ergonomic injuries.
The lack of social interaction during duty can also impact a worker’s behavior. A chat between two employees can help lessen mental strain from the enduring task, not to mention that co-workers pass safety reminders to each other.
How employers can overcome the challenge
Employee safety is important, regardless of how difficult it can be to ensure. It is true that lone workers make it difficult to supervise them, but appropriate training can help them at their job. They can be taught to identify hazards of certain working conditions so they can keep their safety in check. Autonomous workers can become complacent, and without proper training, they may become a victim of their complacency by performing tasks which are potentially dangerous without a second pair of hands.
It is in the interest of the worker’s safety that such high-risk activities should always be performed in the presence of another worker.
While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US Department of Labor has not developed safety guidelines which employers can reference, it has outlined these procedures for organizations to follow:
- The employer shall account for each employee working in a confined space or isolated location at regular intervals during each work shift
- Maintain communication with each employee through sight or verbal communications
OSHA does not define what amount of time constitutes as “regular intervals,” so it falls entirely on the employer’s conscious and knowledge to follow an interval that ensures the worker’s safety.
As we discussed, some jobs require an extra set of hands. Employers can decide to assign a co-worker at the event:
- There are hazardous substances and chemicals
- The work involving lifting objects is too heavy for one person to handle
- One person can not handle the machinery in the workplace
- The safety of entering and exiting the workplace cannot be determined
- The access equipment, such as portable ladders, require assistance
- Other types of special risks are present which are exclusive to that particular
Training Lone Workers
Training of all employees in the workplace is essential, but additional training is required to meet lone workers safety requirements. Educate them on the specific hazards of working alone and how to tackle the challenge of communicating for help in the event of a mishap. For example, keeping a communication device close at all times and making sure weak signals do not obstruct a clear communication.
The employer must provide safety systems, training of employees, and review any mishaps to avoid future incidents. Employers can benefit from the OSHA 30 General Industry course, which is designed to provide the necessary training to employees of the potential workplace hazards.