This guide details what a working alone procedure is, plus 8 essential safety procedures that lone workers (and management teams) should execute daily.
Published 2 Dec 2022
A working alone procedure is a course of action to follow, as outlined by the organization's official lone worker policy. Lone worker procedures are designed to create and maintain safe work environments and ways of working. They provide guidance and actionable steps to enable lone workers (and managers) to safely manage and control hazards and risks while working alone, in isolation, and in remote locations.
Creating detailed working alone procedures affirms an organization’s commitment to safeguarding their most vulnerable staff members.
Every organization’s lone-working procedures should vary, based on the type of work, the work environment(s) in which it is carried out, and the organization’s lone worker risk assessment findings.
However, there are seven procedures that almost every organization should implement to keep their lone workers safe and accounted for at all times.
All organizations should provide their employees with personal safety equipment to protect themselves in the event of an emergency or dangerous situation. The necessary personal protective equipment will vary based on the type of work, though some examples include emergency alarms, GPS trackers, hard hats, goggles, masks, gloves, first-aid kits, and more.
Organizations should also have ways to encourage and enforce the use of the protective equipment. Requiring the completion of physical or digital work pre-start checklists and forms (i.e. Are you wearing your hard hat? Is your GPS tracker turned on?) and hanging safety signs at workplaces are two examples of this.
Requiring employees to check-in periodically and confirm their wellbeing is a crucial part of any lone worker safety plan. Checking in ensures that If employees fail to check-in, managers will be notified so that they can take necessary action.
There are many ways to carry out a check-in procedure. Some organizations require employees to call or text their managers at regular intervals, for example, every hour, or once an activity, task, appointment, or shift is complete. Since this manual check-in procedure can be tedious (and can lead to games of “phone tag”), many organizations prefer to use an automated check-in, facilitated by a lone worker solution, such as a lone worker smartphone app. Generally, smartphone apps automatically push notifications to employees to check-in, at specified intervals. Managers can be notified if employees miss a check-in, and duress alerts can be automatically triggered if employees still have not checked in, after a specified amount of time lapses.
Overtime alerting is a procedure that is designed to alert managers when employees have worked longer than expected or overstayed their allocated time at a work location. This allows managers to step in and check on the employee, and if necessary, send emergency assistance.
Overtime alerting is particularly useful for lone workers who carry out high-risk activities; if they overstay their check-in, it could mean that they have suffered a serious injury or time-critical injury (and they were unable to activate their duress alarm) and require immediate assistance.
The most efficient way to execute overtime alerting is with an automated lone worker solution. That way, managers can continue with their work, and be notified of any safety issues automatically.
In the event of an emergency, lone workers require a quick, easy, and discreet way to let their manager know that they are in danger and require assistance.
Some organizations rely on phone calls and text messages, but this manual procedure is far from fail-proof. What if the lone worker can’t use their phone? What if the manager doesn’t answer?
Deploying a lone worker alarm is a better solution, since employees can activate their duress at the push of a button. Managers receive duress alerts instantly, and if they fail to respond, the next contact in the emergency escalation chain can be notified immediately. Integration with Bluetooth wearables (panic button pendants and wristwatches) may also offer man-down/fall-detection functionality. Some solutions may offer other ways to activate duress as well; for example, SHEQSY’s “Shake for Panic” feature enables lone workers to shake their phones to alert their managers of emergency situations.
Check-ins, overtime alerts, and emergency notifications are rendered useless without information about employees’ exact locations.
Having a procedure to view and monitor employees’ locations, during working hours, is paramount. That way, when an employee misses a check-in, overstays their activity, or activates their duress alarm, assistance can be dispatched to their location immediately.
Because GPS shares coordinates only, it is useful to require employees to share location notes when working in complex locations, such as in a multi-level building (i.e. Today I am working in Building B, on the 4th floor, in Unit 42), or within specific spaces (i.e. Today I am servicing the inside of Tank 3, in the main factory).
In addition to safety, personal privacy is of utmost importance. For that reason, organizations should deploy a tracking solution that is employee-enabled; this means that the employee can turn tracking on when they begin working, and turn it off upon completion.
Of course, deploying some sort of GPS tracker is required for this procedure, though an all-in-one lone worker solution (that includes periodic check-ins, overtime alerts, emergency/duress activation, employee-enabled GPS tracking, and location notes) is ideal.
Health and safety emergencies are time-critical. Creating a clear, easy-to-follow procedure for emergency response is necessary so that everyone involved knows what to do, in an organized and timely fashion.
To create an emergency response procedure, first, answer questions such as:
If employees work outside of normal business hours, there should be a monitoring procedure in place that ensures their safety.
A common way to monitor employees after-hours is to engage a 24/7 professional security monitoring center to escalate missed check-ins, overtime alerts, and duress alerts according to the organization’s lone worker safety policy.
Since working alone is a high-risk activity, organizations should work to mitigate any unnecessary risks. One of the best ways to do this is to create a hazard reporting procedure, so that employees can alert management of any hazards, incidents, or near-misses.
Of course, hazard reporting can be implemented many ways; employees may be encouraged to submit reports via email, for example. Using a smart checklist and auditing app, such as iAuditor, is a great way to control quality and safety. Meanwhile, some lone worker safety apps, such as SHEQSY, have built-in hazard reporting features, so that lone workers can submit reports, along with photo and video evidence.
Working alone is a high-risk activity. Deploying a comprehensive lone worker safety app, such as SHEQSY, can empower lone workers and managers to easily and efficiently carry out the above lone-working procedures, to protect themselves and others.
In the table below, examine how a safety manager and a lone worker carry out daily safety procedures with SHEQSY’s lone worker solution, compared to without (manually). In this example, the safety manager works in the office, while the lone worker (a home-care nurse) carries out consultations within patients’ homes.
Note: SHEQSY is fully customizable to suit your organization’s safety policies and procedures. Below is just one example of how the solution can be used.
The lone worker calls or texts the manager to let them know that they are driving to the patient’s home. The lone worker manually finds navigation instructions to the job site and travels there. The manager will not not have visibility of the lone worker’s location at all.
“With a significant number of our staff performing outreach appointments in the community and in clients’ homes, having an appointment overtime alert function provides our organization with peace of mind that the welfare of our staff is being monitored for each of their appointments.” – Natalie P., Health Safety and Wellbeing Partner
Managing working alone is a multi-step process. First, occupational safety managers should conduct a lone worker risk assessment to discover the common hazards that their lone workers face, and their associated risk levels. They should make plans to eliminate or mitigate those risks, as well as to carry out new risk assessments regularly. Their assessment findings should inform the creation of a lone worker safety policy – which is a practical, go-to safety guide for lone workers and their managers. In addition to other information, the policy should outline specific working-alone procedures to be used in everyday routine tasks and specific emergency situations. Creating clear, easy-to-follow lone worker procedures can help prevent many workplace injuries, illnesses, accidents, and other incidents.
Some common examples of employees who work alone or in isolation are construction workers, repair technicians, land surveyors, healthcare professionals who make home visits, social or charity workers who work out in the community, delivery drivers, real estate agents and property managers, shop attendants, factory workers, and more. Jobs that involve working alone, in isolation, in a remote location, or traveling to a location can be considered a lone worker activity.
The first step in protecting lone workers is to have a clear and comprehensive safety policy for lone workers, based on detailed risk assessments. The policy should include lone-working procedures to be followed before, during, and after a job assignment. It is also essential that employees are properly trained and experienced in carrying out their work activities alone. In addition, they should receive regular emergency preparedness training so they know how to respond in an emergency situation. Finally, employers should provide their lone workers with the necessary equipment needed for the job, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and a lone worker safety app such as SHEQSY, which includes features such as panic buttons, GPS location tracking, periodic check-in, overtime alerting, and more.
SHEQSY’s lone worker safety app makes it easy for your organization to create streamlined lone-working procedures that keep employees safe, save time, and comply with workplace safety legislation.
Businesses and nonprofits around the world trust SHEQSY to safeguard their lone workers.
See SHEQSY in action here. Then, start your free trial today.
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.
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