Fieldwork is dangerous—especially when working alone or in small teams and remote areas. However, there are often no alternatives for professionals in the utilities, construction, transportation, safety, and security industries. Wires must be repaired, lines must be checked, equipment and materials must be transported, and security posts must be staffed. Risks are part of the job, and variables are everywhere.
Classifications of lone workers are wider spread than most of us ever consider. After all, anyone who works isolated from others can be considered a lone worker. This includes those working in fixed positions, such as dispatchers, guards, or even mobile workers, as well as outside reps, project managers, auditors, and traveling nurses. And while many of these jobs typically don’t include hazardous environmental factors associated with heavy equipment, volatile chemicals, or downed wires, they can be still be dangerous in certain circumstances, for example during a medical emergency or when an unexpected heated confrontation with others occurs.
Understand the Risks and Responsibilities
According to the International Data Corporation’s 2020 stats, frontline workers account for 57% of the total U.S. worker population. And that’s just in the United States. The numbers are much higher globally, hovering between 60%-70%, depending on the source. More surprising, IDC predicts only 49% of frontline workers are currently enabled with a mobile device. Not great numbers, given the rapid migration towards non-traditional workspaces.
With these thoughts in mind and the fact that all employers have moral and legal responsibilities to provide for their workforce’s health and safety, it stands to reason organizations should have mechanisms in place to ensure offsite staff have access to emergency alert applications and intuitive communications technology. The same holds for operations centers. Operations coordinators and supervisors must be able to contact or ascertain an employee’s status not just for safety reasons, but also to relay additional information, updates, and reassignments.
So what’s the solution? Simply put, hindsight, foresight, awareness, and action. Like most mission critical situations, it’s essential to reflect on past incidents, present circumstances, likely or unlikely possibilities, and tactical and strategic options. So for lone worker environments, the information should be utilized to facilitate changes that can be made to streamline both day-to-day information flow and heighten safety and security.
Commit to Practical and Proactive Approaches
On the technology side, lone worker safety can be built-in to everyday tools, such as two-way radios, cellular devices, or even wearable personal alarms or cameras. Besides voice communications, technology integrations that include AVL components, geofencing, or sensor-based alarms can automatically detect changes in patterns or positions and relay that information back to central operations staff and management in real time. Other options consist of interfaces that allow field and in-house personnel to connect or send text and voice alerts through mobile applications on company or personal devices. Likewise, if your organization is looking for a simplistic and discreet solution, one-touch pendant alarms, smart ID badges, and wristbands can be easily customized and configured to align with other workforce management solutions.
Along with smart technology, awareness and engagement are your best means of preparation and defense. Although most organizations ensure their employee safety and security programs comply with government and industry regulations, enthusiastic and consistent attention to maintaining current best practices is key. Rather than viewing safety talks and annual trainings as check the box events, it’s imperative management and personnel collectively engage in constructive discussions, lively tabletop exercises, and realistic and reflective scenario-based drills. Without a doubt, positioning safety as a part of your everyday company culture can have a profound and powerful effect on your organization, your mission, and the customers and communities you serve.
Right now is a great time to assess your organization’s commitment and approaches to prioritizing lone worker safety. And while you’re at it, why not share your thoughts, stories, or suggestions that may help others protect their lone workers as well. Your experiences and lessons learned could help protect and even save lives of others that are often on their own at work.
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