Health and safety is one of the biggest concerns for businesses, so how do you ensure your lone worker policy covers employees who regularly work on their own?
Many UK businesses draft a clear, comprehensive lone worker policy to enforce certain safety measures for lone workers and their managers. The lone worker policy is a written document that tells your entire team the precautions, safety gear, and procedures to take while working alone.
In this article, we’ll cover how to draft a functioning, relevant lone worker policy so that your whole team is safe and healthy in 2020.
What is a lone worker policy?
A lone worker policy is the standard written document a company and its lone workers will follow daily to adhere to certain safety precautions. Since lone workers spend time away from other team members, it is vital to create systems for protecting solo workers while they’re on the job.
Common lone worker policies detail how an isolated worker should report an emergency, the safety precautions they must take while performing a task, any special gear they should wear while on the job, and how often they must report progress from the job site, among other details.
Multiple factors should be considered when thinking about your lone worker policy. The obvious factors have to do with the job itself: Are there common risks like falling, electrocution, getting stuck, or lost that are inherent to the employee’s role? If so, there should be guidelines within your lone worker policy to help employees stay safe.
Other factors are more general. What if a lone worker gets sick, robbed, or attacked? Your lone worker policy should have clear, situation-specific procedures and rules to make sure they always have proper protection. At the end of the day, each lone worker policy is unique to the company and role.
Who are lone workers?
Lone workers encompass a large, diverse group of the working UK population. In fact, some estimates project that upwards of 20% of the UK workforce can be described as lone workers.
In short, it can literally be anyone who works alone. Here are common examples of lone workers:
- Delivery drivers
- Maintenance and installation experts
- Construction workers
- Agriculture workers
- Sales employees who visit homes and businesses
- Factory workers
- Real estate agents
- Nannies and house cleaners
- Electricians, plumbers, and HVAC professionals
- Travelling consultants
- Overnight or remote security professionals
This list is not comprehensive. The definition of a lone worker can be applied to hundreds of other roles.
Do I need a lone worker policy?
Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their workforce and contractors.
Fortunately, a good lone worker policy is presented as a joint effort between employee and employer to create a safe working environment. A lone worker safety policy exists to tell employees how to remain safe while on the job, as well as how managers should respond in case of an emergency.
How to draft a lone worker policy
To begin, consider the health and safety risks inherent to the job as well as common challenges and risks of working or commuting alone.
How to gather the right information
There are three primary ways to gather the information you need to draft a comprehensive lone worker policy: listen to your employees, observe them on the job, and consider previous challenges or problems.
Listen to employees:
- Conduct a survey to understand the biggest fears or dangers your employees face working by themselves.
- Take written inventory of all machinery, chemicals, or other hazardous tools a lone worker may come into contact with during their shift.
- Create focus groups to discuss what policies or procedures would make your employees feel safer on the job.
Observe employees on the job:
- Pay attention to risks that your employee may not think of. These can include driving or walking through high-crime areas, losing phone signal while working remotely, or having a vehicle run out of gas or break down on their way to a job site.
- Consider the safety equipment used on the job. Will it properly protect your employees in case of incidents?
- In the worst-case scenario, what devices or procedures are in place (or lacking) to make sure emergency support can find and aid stranded or injured workers?
Consider previous challenges:
- When an incident occurs on the job, ask the employee what went wrong and how your company could potentially prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
- Refer to past incidents by speaking to the employees involved and returning to any records from that day.
- Consult with companies in similar fields to consider additional incidents that haven’t happened within your company but may otherwise be common to your field.
What to include in a lone worker safety policy
Once you’ve gathered sufficient information about the safety needs of your lone workers, it’s time to begin forming your actual policy. One of the simplest methods is to turn your policy into a checklist.
Before pilots take off, they follow a strict checklist to make sure the plane is safe and ready for flight. To be clear: This isn’t a list of recommendations. Pilot checklists include specific, strict guidelines that must be checked off every time.
Your safety policy should be similar. Use instructive language. Instead of saying, “Consider wearing a lone worker device,” say, “All lone workers must wear their lone safety device while working remotely.” The declarative nature of your checklist will ensure greater safety by eliminating choice. These are demands, not considerations.
Use the information you gathered through surveys, questionnaires, and following your employees on the job to create clear rules.
If the nature of your lone workers’ role changes from day to day, then include if-then style rules. For example, “If you enter a construction site, then you must wear a hardhat the entire time you’re on the premises.”
A lone worker policy should be readily available to all your lone workers and their managers. Lone workers need to know how to perform their job at maximum safety. Managers of lone workers need to know what to do in case of an injury or other emergency. Having an up-to-date, written policy is the best way to make sure everyone can access the information they need.
How to enforce a lone worker policy
Enforcing a new policy is easiest when everyone understands why the policy exists. Make it clear to employees that following the rules in your lone worker policy is mandatory to their job. Explain that your highest priority is employee safety, which means strict adherence to health and safety rules.
If you design your lone worker policy in the form of a checklist, you can require lone workers to turn in the filled-out checklist each day before going to the job. This ensures they bring along any safety gear, lone worker safety device, or proper tools for safely accomplishing their job.
How often should you update your policy
There is no strict frequency here. As your employees go to the worksite every day, you and your employees will inevitably find new rules to add to the lone worker policy. It’s wise to perform regular surveys and focus groups with your team to ensure your policy is up to date and considers any new threats, tools, or challenges.
Expect to take a hard look at your lone worker safety policy at least once per year to determine which elements need to be updated or added.
Lone worker device
In addition to your lone worker policy, it’s important to give your employees the right tools for staying safe while working alone. One of the best tools is a lone worker safety device.
The right safety device can provide real-time updates in a dashboard about where your employees are at any given time. It also provides a simple alert system in case something goes wrong.
If you have a lone worker device, you should include instructions for using the device within your lone worker policy. Make it clear to all employees that wearing their lone worker device is mandatory for the role.
If you’re in the market for a lone worker device, Vatix is a leading option for employee safety. Complete with a dashboard that tracks every remote worker and provides emergency signalling to seamlessly call for help, Vatix helps your employees stay healthy and safe. Learn more about Vatix here.
Give your employees the safety precautions and tools they need to thrive in their roles in 2020. Provide every lone worker and their manager a clear written policy that details the procedures, safety gear, tools, and rules to follow every day to ensure maximum health, safety, and peace of mind.