Lone worker safety in a time of uncertainty
Sep 29 2020
Author: Yves Carrier on behalf of Blackline Safety Europe
The Fight Against COVID-19
Whether countries remain in lockdown, have begun re-opening, or fall somewhere in-between, most regions still have a degree of physical distancing in place as the world continues to combat the spread of COVID-19. Simultaneously, governments continue to institute measures that help support their economies and secure their supply channels.
At the onset of the pandemic, this was done by designating businesses as ‘essential,’ which included Blackline Safety as well as other organizations that fell within the healthcare, financial, retail, manufacturing, utilities, telecom, energy and logistics sectors. Months later, some businesses continue to operate with a reduced workforce and split shifts where multiple teams share daily workflows, keeping physical separations in place as they work to ensure the continued flow of raw materials, finished goods, food, power, clean water and a broad range of services. As a result, more people are working alone than ever before.
Who are lone workers?
Lone workers are those personnel working in isolation, beyond the sight and sound of others where no one is available to lend a hand. This may be for short periods of time, continuously, intermittently, as well as in remote locations or during callouts and off-hours work.
Some countries, such as Canada, Australia, Italy, France, Spain and Germany have enacted legislation to further define and establish criteria for monitoring lone workers. Others like the United Kingdom and the United States have no specific requirements for lone worker monitoring, but provide comprehensive duty of care legislation. Regardless of legislation, the visibility of lone worker safety has become an increasingly critical topic for businesses around the world and the global pandemic has further accelerated this trend.
COVID-19 has increased the separation between workers
With the global COVID-19 outbreak, the topic of lone worker safety has pushed to the forefront for many of our clients with a reduced number of personnel in the field, throughout facilities and on the road. With the need for physical distancing in all aspects of our lives, the rate of lone work for many businesses has increased significantly.
In many cases, personnel travel alone in vehicles and they work alone or at a distance from others. In other cases, a reduced workforce means that one worker is keeping operations running while proactive maintenance is being deferred. In each of these cases, the risk to personnel is that someone may not be nearby to help should a health or safety incident occur. Organizations need a proactive method to detect and communicate that an incident occurred to protect their lone workers.
How to protect lone workers while practicing physical distancing
With many regions around the world starting to re-open to some degree, the importance of physical distancing is more important than ever. While many organizations are now allowing a higher amount of staff on various worksites as part of their re-opening plans, there are still more lone workers in the field today than before the pandemic. As leaders in essential industries, it’s our job to protect them and keep them safe.
Fortunately, we don’t have to start from square one. The connected safety space has evolved over the last several years and lone worker monitoring solutions are becoming commonplace and habitual for many businesses.
The safety industry has designed and manufactured cutting-edge products and solutions, such as connected safety wearables and cloud-hosted software, to help organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses keep lone workers safe. They offer a broad range of capabilities, including lone worker monitoring, gas detection, location technology and employee communications solutions, which help combat the added challenges essential businesses face in today’s unique landscape.
The importance of live monitoring
First and foremost, the ability to monitor lone workers in real-time is critical. Every organization that employs isolated personnel must establish a live monitoring team with documented response protocols, employee contact information, escalation paths and alert preferences. Online mapping makes it easy to have full situational awareness for every scenario that may occur — seeing an employee’s location and any nearby coworkers that can be dispatched quickly.
Additionally, organizations need a strategy for monitoring workers who are not alone, especially as many businesses begin to gradually introduce re-opening measures. Individuals who return to the field and do not properly distance can risk an outbreak among your workforce. Beyond masks and other personal protective equipment, tools exist to help remind workers when they get too close to a peer in real time.
Cross-team communication and collaboration
Organizations with lone workers must also implement a robust system of communication that operates without interruption in the event of an incident. Connected lone worker safety products exist that work similarly to a walkie-talkie, enabling personnel to communicate directly in real-time with others, including a live monitoring team, on the same channel. Often, there’s no local infrastructure required.
These tools help expand and enhance your communication methods, especially in a time where there continues to be more workers operating in isolation than ever before and response to an incident must be seamless.
Lone worker solutions and industrial contact tracing
With the combination of communications, location technology, cloud-hosted software and data science, businesses are able to leverage lone worker solutions to support industrial contact tracing investigations. If an employee becomes symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19, it’s important to isolate others who may have had close contact, to stop the spread of the virus.
Google and Apple collaborated on contact tracing apps for smartphones, but most industrial scenarios require employees to leave their phones in their locker. This leaves a gap in facilities or out in the field that lone worker monitoring solutions can readily fill, helping to support business continuity.
Lone worker device checklist
To help better monitor and protect your lone workers in the field, the following is a comprehensive checklist of technology, applications and safety measures that can help ensure you are proactively enacting every precaution that is relevant to your business to ensure your workers remain safe.
Ensuring safety for lone workers
For organizations that are deemed essential, lone workers are often the reason the world can continue to deliver and receive goods and services that help keep people safe and the economy operating. It’s up to us to ensure our isolated personnel can confidently get their job done and return home unharmed.
As the need for physical distancing around the world remains paramount, now is the perfect time to adopt and begin implementing many of the above applications and processes. Together, we can monitor threats and manage every incident from receipt to resolution efficiently, protecting our essential lone workers during and well after the pandemic.
Author Contact Details
Business Development Director at Blackline Safety
• Address: 803 24 Ave SE #100, Calgary, AB T2G 1P5, Canada
• Tel: North America: 1-877-869-7212
• Tel: International: 1-403-451-0327
• Email: email@example.com
• Web: www.blacklinesafety.com
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