Working Alone Safely
Working alone presents many hazards, and your employees must be aware of precautions they need to take to keep themselves safe. While it is not always hazardous to work alone, it can be when other circumstances are present. Whether a situation is a high or low risk will depend on the location, type of work, interaction with the public, or the consequences of an emergency, accident, injury, etc. This wide variety of circumstances makes it important to assess each situation individually.
Solo workers are easy targets. Those who work alone in stores, gas stations, or other such jobs are considered easy targets by thieves, especially at night. Make your employees aware of all the precautions you are taking to reduce the hazards for solo employees, such as:
- Having surveillance cameras in plain view of customers
- Having a limited access safe or comparable device in the store
- Limiting the amount of cash to which employees have access
- Posting signs notifying customers of these security measures
- Lighting the store’s approach area and parking lot at night
- Keeping the windows and outside of the building clear so that employees can have an unobstructed view outside
- Providing crime prevention training for employees
- Having a hidden button that sends an alarm to the local police in an emergency
In addition to what an employer is doing, workers also need to know how they can help to keep themselves safe. Train them to:
- Be alert for anyone who seems to be watching from outside and who may be waiting for a time when they are alone.
- Monitor the surveillance cameras carefully, especially if a customer seems to be wandering around the store for longer than normal.
- Not hesitate to use their alarm button if they sense trouble. Never penalize employees for sounding the alarm if they feel threatened.
There are many other jobs that may involve working alone. These include taxi drivers, delivery persons, outside salespeople, or home healthcare workers. Working alone includes all employees who may go for a period of time where they do not have direct contact with a co-worker. For example, the receptionist in a large office building may be considered a “lone” worker. Alternatively, a construction worker who is doing work in a bathroom or other location that cannot be seen by co-workers may also be considered a lone worker. Other examples are home care employees, social service workers, security guards or custodians.
Give the employees in each of these jobs specific training. For example:
- Assess each situation on a case-by-case basis.
- Establish a check-in procedure with a designated contact, use a daily work schedule, or report whenever they change their location.
- Establish procedures to follow in case of a vehicle breakdown.
In addition, lone workers in a remote section of a building may be at risk. They need an established check-in procedure, too. Ask these questions about your solo safety procedures:
- Is voice contact sufficient, or should there be visual contact with workers as well?
- What hazards will workers face in performing their duties?
- What special protections should be established for security officers?
Always make sure your employees know that asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness—and they will not be disciplined in case they ask for help, even for a minor incident. If a close call does occur, investigate it, record it, and review solo safety procedures in case changes or improvements are needed.
- The JHA: Analyze This! (safetygator.wordpress.com)
- Workplace Security: Expecting the Unexpected (safetygator.wordpress.com)
- What Do Your Employees Think About Safety? (safetygator.wordpress.com)