Whether you are just getting started with creating a lone worker safety program or it is time for an annual review of your existing procedures, a consistent assessment approach can ensure that your safety program is effective and meets regulatory requirements.
When assessing lone worker risks and safety programs, there are four primary areas of consideration:
- Identifying staff working alone or in isolation
- Defining check-in and check-out procedures
- Establishing clear steps for missed safety checks
- Documenting working alone program usage and outcomes
It is recommended that a lone worker safety program be reviewed regularly, and in this article we break-down some of the key steps every employer should be taking.
How to Identify Staff Working Alone or in Isolation
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, a person is “alone” at work when they cannot be seen or heard by another person. At the provincial level, working alone is further defined to specify that someone who is the only employee of a particular company working in a given location may be considered a lone worker. Many workplaces have shifted to remote work or working from home, and this means that many people are considered to be working alone even if they have a partner or roommate present.
It is also important to think about employees who may be onsite but are working in relative isolation. A common example is that of a receptionist, working alone at a front desk in a large office. Without the presence of co-workers or immediate supervisors in the same room, the receptionist is working in isolation, and their role is subject to the same safety check-in requirements as other lone workers.
How to Define Check-In Procedures
If an employee is determined to meet the definition of a lone worker, it is the responsibility of their supervisor or manager to clearly define and train the employee about safety check procedures.
Local regulations may vary, but the key requirements of a check-in procedure generally include:
- Written documentation of the procedure steps, including risk-appropriate intervals between safety checks.
- An audit trail of all check-ins and missed safety checks.
- Written documentation of what steps to take if a safety check is missed.
How to Establish Procedures for Missed Safety Checks
The true impact of a lone worker safety program is dependent upon providing an effective response to a missed safety check. An employer must define how a missed check-in will be handled including the methods of follow-up contact, any delays or alarm escalations, and maintain current records of emergency contact information. Regularly reviewing these details with employees is critically important, as having up-to-date Alert Contacts on file can have a direct impact on the ability to provide a prompt emergency response.
How to Document Working Alone Program Usage and Outcomes
This final area of consideration is often overlooked but is the only way to ensure that a lone worker safety program is meeting regulatory requirements. Documentation can be time-consuming, particularly if a manual check-in process is being used. To establish a complete audit trail, employers should be tracking:
- Which employees will be using the lone worker safety program and the dates of their safety check procedures training.
- All safety checks and their outcomes, including false alarms or alarms requiring emergency responses.
- Employee locations at the time of a triggered alarm.
Once employers have completed a full lone worker risk assessment, they should be aware of any additional audit trail details that may be industry-specific and required by law.