The risks of working alone are as unique and myriad as the responsibilities of each worker. In this chapter, we’ll cover some of the most common universal risks many lone workers face on the job.
Stranded at a Work Site
A lone worker might encounter an incident—like a vehicle breakdown, injury, or other problem—that leaves them stranded at the job site. This can create additional risks like running out of resources, staying at a job site after dark, or having no mobile service to call for help.
Loss of Communication
Many lone workers get commissioned to areas without good cell service. In that case, a lone worker without the right emergency contact or alert system can have no way to contact their employer or team.
Employees working from home might experience a different type of loss of communication. Namely, they can grow disconnected from the larger team, causing them to be less productive, miss important meetings, or get overlooked for promotions or the recognition they might deserve.
In addition, a loss of communication for a home-based worker can come in the form of faulty internet connection. When the power or internet goes down, home-based employees have nothing to do, and possibly even no way to inform their team.
Attacks and Theft
Working alone makes employees vulnerable to mugging or burglary, particularly if they’re working in secluded areas.
Real estate agents, canvassers, and door-to-door salespeople take on enormous personal risk every time they enter a house with a stranger.
Technicians, manufacturers, and electricians might work at night or in an abandoned part of town. Being alone puts them at greater risk for becoming a target of a crime.
In addition, people working from home face the risk of burglary. Most home robberies occur in the middle of the day because thieves assume the homeowner is at work. That means workers may be home when a burglar enters their home, putting the homeowner in danger.
Many lone worker jobs require extensive travel. Driving presents many safety and health risks including accidents or break downs, both of which can leave drivers in dangerous situations. This may leave workers injured or stranded, possibly in remote, hard-to-reach areas.
Drivers of heavy machinery such as tractors, bulldozers, and cranes may be at risk of common hard-hat related dangers. Construction and demolition sites are a common place for workplace injuries and accidents to occur.
Lone workers also face possible injuries on remote job sites. Without the proper alert system or safety tools, even basic injuries can become more severe without speedy response systems. It’s important to make sure your lone workers always travel with a First Aid kit.
You need to protect your lone workers from health risks beyond incidents that can occur because of the job. In the unfortunate event that a lone worker experiences any illness, such as a heart attack, they need to be equipped with adequate communication tools to get in touch with you or emergency services immediately.
Lone workers can get caught in various storms and other weather-born disasters. Without the right preparation, poor weather can increase the chances of other incidents on this list, such as injury or loss of communication.
Exhaustion, Malnutrition, and Dehydration
A lone worker may not have easy access to water, food, or a place to rest. A lack of any of these factors can result in severe injury, hospitalization or loss of mental focus.
Lack of Clear Protocol
When workers are on their own, they may not always know the next steps to take. It can sometimes be inconvenient or time-consuming for lone workers to gather new information while working on the job. It’s important to have clear checks and balances to ensure lone workers can move quickly and efficiently, getting their jobs done without confusion, disruption, or incorrect procedures.
A lone worker that hasn’t been properly prepared for their day on the job may face risks caused by using improper tools, protective gear or equipment. It’s important to have a checklist in place for lone workers going to specific sites to ensure they bring or are provided everything they’ll need to mitigate risk and fully perform their job. In Chapter 4 we’ll consider why lone worker safety should matter to your organization.