Job roles right across the board involve lone working – from micro businesses, such as window cleaners, to large multi-nationals in the insurance and financial sectors. So seeking the best way to protect their lone workers from harm is a common dilemma for employers.
Research has shown that whatever the size, location or nature of the organisation, there are many simple, practical and cost effective measures which employers can use to help protect, and manage the safety of, lone workers. While this is most commonly protecting them from the risk of violence from others, it also includes the specific difficulties that working in isolation can cause.
And effective measures do not have to be expensive. The most effective solutions usually arise from the way the business is run; such as good communications between staff, effective monitoring, staff training, job design and changes to the physical environment. High technology and high cost security equipment will normally only be needed where there is a particularly high risk of violence.
Where violence against staff is the primary risk they face, the most common key risks are from:
• Alcohol & drugs – making people more aggressive and their behaviour unpredictable
• Location – certain areas (e.g. city centres) which are higher risk
• Time – late evening / early morning shifts when fewer people are around / light levels may be a factor
• Job – holding positions of power or authority can cause resentment / aggression towards that person
But it’s not just violence that can increase the risk to lone workers. Jobs requiring a lot of travel can increase the likelihood of being involved in a road traffic accident. Where staff are working in isolated conditions, communication can be a major problem too. It may be that they are not properly equipped e.g. out of mobile phone range, or when monitoring / supervision is poor resulting in the organisation losing track of where their staff are.