5 Key Steps to Improving Lone Worker Safety

In this guide to lone worker safety, you will learn how to improve, manage, and monitor the health and safety of your lone workers, in real-time, in just a few simple steps.

lone worker at work

Published 18 Aug 2022

Lone Worker Safety

On a daily basis, lone workers face a unique, dynamic, and high-risk set of health and safety hazards. If you are responsible for lone worker safety in your organization, then your goal should be to implement a carefully considered and rigorous lone worker safety program—one that incorporates protocols for hazard identification, risk assessment, location monitoring, emergency escalation, and more.

5 Steps to Keep Lone Workers Safe

Lone workers inherently face greater health and safety risks because, in the event of an emergency, no one else is around to help. To create a successful lone worker safety program, you must carefully examine potential hazards and risks and deploy effective safeguards accordingly.

Many governments worldwide, including Australia and the United States, broadly require organizations to do so; meanwhile, others, such as the United Kingdom, have published specific lone worker safety guidelines.

Proactive lone worker safety is vital, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are the five most important steps that you should take to ensure the safety of your lone workers.

1. Identify Your Lone Workers

Lone workers are individuals who work alone or in isolation, without direct supervision, regular contact with others, or access to back-up support. They can fill a wide variety of job roles, including:

  • Health and social workers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Utilities, cleaning, and other service providers
  • Retail staff
  • Agricultural workers
  • Factory staff
  • Construction workers
  • Real estate agents
  • Work-from-home employees

In order to keep lone workers safe, you must identify them first. Make a list of the different roles lone workers fill in your organization, keeping in mind that some may not be obvious immediately.

For example, if an employee regularly leaves the office intermittently to complete a work task on their own (i.e. a delivery or a sales call), then you should consider them a lone worker. Likewise, if an employee is completing a job where others are present, such as on a construction site, but they cannot see or hear other colleagues, then they should also be considered a lone worker.

Once you have identified all of the lone workers that your organization employs or contracts, you should identify the hazards that are inherently present in their work environments, one by one. Learn more about how to identify your lone workers.

2. Identify Lone Worker Hazards

A workplace hazard is anything that could potentially cause harm or damage to people, property, or equipment.

Hazards are present in every work environment, though the types of hazards and their degrees of risk vary widely. For example, in a home office, an employee could slip, trip, or fall down stairs, or a poor ergonomic set-up could lead to chronic back pain. Meanwhile, a healthcare worker who carries out home visits could be physically attacked by a patient or get into a car accident while traveling.

Proactively and regularly identifying hazards can ensure that workplace injuries, emergencies, and other serious incidents occur less frequently.

Safety, physical, chemical, biological, psychosocial, and ergonomic hazards are the six main types of hazards in the workplace to look out for.

It is also important to note that lone-working environments can change often (for example, if employees visit multiple worksites per day), so it may not be possible to identify every hazard. Incorporating a real-time, digital safety solution (such as SHEQSY) into your lone worker safety program proactively safeguards lone workers against the unexpected.

Once you identify as many hazards as is reasonably practicable, the next step is to manage the risks accordingly. Learn more about how to identify hazards in the workplace and apply your findings to improve lone worker safety.

3. Assess and Manage the Risks of Lone Working

After you have identified as many hazards as possible, you must assess each hazard’s level of risk. Then, you must swiftly and methodically rectify any hazards you have identified, in order of importance (i.e. the highest-risk hazards should take top priority).

Other than the high-risk act of working alone or in an isolated location itself, some of the high-risk scenarios that could affect your lone workers’ health and safety include:

  • Working in unknown or remote areas
  • Experiencing physical violence
  • Slipping, tripping, or falling
  • Working in confined spaces
  • Working with hazardous equipment, substances, etc.
  • Driving long distances
  • Working outside of normal business hours
  • Experiencing a sudden medical emergency (i.e. heart attack)

Conducting regular and detailed lone worker risk assessments is the most effective way to identify hazards and manage lone worker safety and health risks. Learn more about how to complete a lone worker risk assessment.

4. Create a Detailed Lone Worker Policy

Creating a detailed safety policy is the most critical step in ensuring your lone workers’ wellbeing.

This official document establishes your organization’s lone worker safety rules and regulations. Generally, a lone worker safety policy should include:

  • General safety guidance
  • How to identify hazards and manage risks
  • Roles and responsibilities (of lone workers and management teams)
  • Clear, simple step-by-step safety procedures and processes to follow
  • Tools to use (such as the SHEQSY Lone Worker Safety App or personal protective equipment)
  • How to report near-misses, hazards, and incidents
  • What to do in the event of an emergency
  • Lone worker training and continuous education requirements
  • A protocol for regularly reviewing and updating the policy

All lone worker policies vary, based on industry, legal requirements, needs, and industry-specific lone worker hazards and risks. Learn more about why and how to create a lone worker policy.

Once your organization has created and deployed a lone worker policy, the work has only just begun. Your goal should be to regularly review the policy for continuous improvement—in turn, making your lone workers safer and safer.

5. Deploy a Lone Worker Safety Solution

The most effective way to proactively protect lone workers is through a lone worker safety solution. From call centers and safety devices to smartphone apps, lone worker solutions come in many forms and vary in their abilities to mitigate risk.

When choosing a lone worker safety solution for your organization, make sure to consider the specific needs of your lone workers—taking into account the hazards you identified in Step 2.

At a minimum, a lone worker safety solution should enable lone workers to share their locations in real-time, check-in periodically to confirm their wellbeing, and receive immediate assistance if there is an emergency or if they are unresponsive.

Generally speaking, the best option is a digital, real-time lone worker solution (such as a lone worker smartphone app) that ensures your remote and mobile workers are safe, connected, and supported 24/7—even when no one else is around.

Learn more about how to deploy the right lone worker solutions to protect remote workers.

Must-Have Lone Worker Safety Features

Before you deploy a lone worker solution, you should ensure that it offers all of these key lone worker safety features:

  • Real-Time Location Monitoring: View accurate GPS locations of employees as they work. Location visibility should always be employee-activated to protect personal privacy.
  • Automatic Check-In: Require lone workers to periodically check-in, confirming their safety and wellbeing and/or updating their expected activity or work shift completion times.
  • Overtime Alerts: Receive alerts when employees fail to check-in and exceed their allocated activity times or work shifts.
  • Duress/Emergency Activation: Enable lone workers to quickly, easily, and discreetly activate their duress in the event of emergency so they can receive help in a timely manner.
  • Customized Emergency Escalation Chains: Tailor automated notification workflows (via email, SMS, and phone calls) to ensure that duress alerts are sent to the right team leaders, every time.
  • Roll Call and Emergency Notifications: In the event of an emergency (i.e. a flood or wildfire), have the ability to send out notifications to employees and complete roll calls to confirm staff wellbeing.
  • Lone Worker Monitoring: Have the option to use a 24/7 professional security monitoring center to verify each emergency situation and deploy emergency services according to your lone worker safety policy.
  • Safety Checklists & Reports: Enable lone workers to complete customized safety checklists and forms, submit locations notes, and share hazard and incident reports (with photo and video).

Encompassing the features above and beyond, SHEQSY’s lone worker smartphone app and dashboard offers a comprehensive and proactive approach to lone worker safety and management.

Easy Lone Worker Safety

“Since using SHEQSY, employees report that they feel much more secure knowing that they have SHEQSY monitoring their sessions. As a manager, I find it much easier to track the productivity and safety of my employees when working in the community.” 

– Jeremy Buckmaster, Community Rehabilitation Manager, Epworth HealthCare

Comprehensive Lone Worker Safety & Management with SHEQSY

If your goal is to protect employees working alone—while keeping compliant with your organization’s legal occupational health and safety requirements—then you need a lone worker safety solution.

With SHEQSY, you can feel confident that your most valuable assets (your employees) are safe, connected, and supported in real-time, 24/7, no matter their environment.

See SHEQSY in action below. Then, start your free trial today.

SafetyCulture staff writer

Maddy Cornelius

Maddy is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. She has worked as a digital marketer and copywriter in the risk management industry for more than a decade. When she’s not writing for SafetyCulture, Maddy runs a popular travel and food blog and enjoys snowboarding, practicing yoga, hiking, and spending time exploring outdoors.

Maddy is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. She has worked as a digital marketer and copywriter in the risk management industry for more than a decade. When she’s not writing for SafetyCulture, Maddy runs a popular travel and food blog and enjoys snowboarding, practicing yoga, hiking, and spending time exploring outdoors.