When an employee is sent into the field to work alone, he does not have co-workers present to alert him to possible signs of trouble or dangers in the workplace. Unfortunately, if a problem does develop and the worker sustains an injury or gets sick, he also does not have coworkers available to provide assistance or to summon prompt medical help. This can create a life-threatening situation for a lone worker, even when he sustains injuries that could be relatively minor if promptly treated.
Lone workers exist in many industries and across all fields. Retail workers, factory workers doing their jobs on weekends and evenings, utility workers, maintenance and repair workers, and a host of other employees do their jobs without benefit of colleagues around. An attorney experienced in workers' compensation cases knows that employees working alone have the same rights as any other workers to be protected from on-the-job hazards and to receive benefits if a workplace accident causes harm. Employers need to ensure they are taking reasonable precautions and following best practices for safety to protect lone workers in order to reduce the risk of an injury and resulting workers' compensation claim.
How Can Employers Protect Lone Workers?
Safety and Health News provides tips and advice for employers on steps they can take to provide protection to lone workers.
One of the most important aspects of protecting employees who work alone is to make sure those employees are safe and to get them medical assistance or other help if something goes wrong. This means there must be regular contact as well as a system in place to provide warning if something happens on-the-job. Technology has made it much easier to monitor lone workers for signs of problems.
Worker location technologies like GPS devices can track movements so an employer is alerted if an employee stops moving for an extended period, is not where he should be, or if there are other irregular behavior patterns. Automated warning systems or alerts can even allow a warning to trigger if an out-of-the ordinary pattern is detected in an employee's movements.
Remote workers can also use cell phones and radios to check in periodically in order to ensure they are safe. In-person visits by supervisors should occur routinely for workers in the field as well, and the employee should have a home base to check in to after a job is done in order to ensure he has returned safely.
While technology is one important tool in keeping lone workers safe, there are also other things an employer can do to protect people who are working alone in the field. A risk assessment should be performed and an emergency action plan created before an employee is sent to perform work in the field. An employer should also impose limits on the types of tasks that can be done alone so workers do not engage in dangerous activities without co-workers to supervise and help protect them.