Lone workers face different risks than their on-site colleagues. Learn about some common risks and how to take preventative action against them.

As an employer in Australia, it’s your responsibility to provide for the health and safety of your employees while they’re at work. What does that mean for lone workers? What health and safety risks does a lone worker face?

It’s unreasonable to list every possible risk a lone worker could encounter. Frankly, it’s impossible. The risks can feel unpredictable. A factory, hospital, retail store, or any other physical location comes with its own risks. Still, it’s easier to predict what could happen. The risk is contained in the location. So, besides listing some of the common risks that affect lone workers, we’ll also touch on some preventative suggestions. These extra resources, including a lone worker app, can help your loan workers feel safe on the job.

Lone Workers Physical Risks

93% of the serious health and safety claims in Australia last year were bodily injuries. Among the most common were slips and falls, body stresses (like overexertion or unnecessarily repetitive work), or being hit by objects.

Another common risk for Australian workers is heat. Working in the sun poses health risks like heat exhaustion. This could be caused by long hours in the sun or hard labour in the heat. Clothing or uniforms that impair sweating are other risks.

Other serious work-related injuries happen during travel. Almost a third of all the fatal work accidents in Australia stemmed from vehicle collisions. A vehicle could include a car or any other mode of transportation like a bike, quad, tractors, aircraft, or boats, etc. Of course, your lone worker could be at risk even if they aren’t the one in the vehicle. Walking in high traffic areas or in low visibility areas can also pose a risk.

Preventing Physical Harm

As an employer, create procedures that lead to extra physical safety in the workplace. One general suggestion is to ensure property certification and operation of heavy equipment and other high-risk tools like scaffolding, harmful chemicals, etc. Seek to schedule breaks, provide adequate water, and rotate workers through various tasks.

Lone Workers Psychological Risks

Did you know Australian employers are also responsible for psychological risks? That includes your lone workers. Mental health in the workplace is a growing concern in Australia. Lone workers can face additional mental health challenges that on-site workers might not.

Many psychological risks compound on pre-existing conditions. Situations when working alone could trigger challenges an employee already deals with. For example, bouts of anxiety over a high-stress or new situation could leave an employee feeling unsafe. 

Even without pre-existing conditions, any worker could feel at risk in traumatic situations. If someone is threatening, verbally violent, or harasses a lone worker, it can qualify as a health and safety risk.  

Finally, some psychological risks deal arise from high demands on the job. These could be long, isolated work hours, frequently working in a demanding or stressful environment, or even having a difficult, fast-paced task.

Preventing Psychological Hazards

One of the best ways to prevent psychological hazards is to understand your worker's mental health. Consult with them and their health and safety representative (or HSR) where appropriate. Then, you can assign them to work they feel most comfortable with. By identifying hazards, you can mitigate risk and take a proactive approach to lone worker safety.

Open Communication Through a Lone Worker App

While you can’t totally ensure the safety of any worker, you can give them tools to feel safer. One example is a lone worker app. The app allows you to create your own health and safety procedures such as check-ins and reporting mechanisms.

For the worker, it provides them with a designated means of communicating back to you. This is critical in Australia’s worker health and safety laws. The app doubles as an emergency alert. If a lone worker feels at risk, either physically or psychologically, they can activate the app. The notifications alert a monitoring team who assesses the situation and responds appropriately, including sending emergency services to assist them. 

Plan to use new technologies like lone worker apps alongside other risk protection strategies. Together, they can protect your lone worker and keep you from expensive claims and fines.

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