Is there any legislation regulating lone worker safety I should know about before hiring?
There is no simple answer that applies to all situations.
First, let's look at what a lone or isolated worker is. Lone workers are individuals who work by themselves, without close or direct supervision. Lone workers take many forms. A few examples are:
- An employee in small workshops or businesses where only one person works on the premise
- People who work separately from others in factories or leisure facilities
- Service workers like real estate agents, home nursing attendants, postal workers, and drivers
Working alone is a large part of many jobs. While some countries have adopted lone worker policies, there is no explicit legislation in the United States regarding an employer’s duty to monitor the health and safety of isolated employee, except in the shipbuilding industry.
Now, that doesn’t mean that employers have no responsibilities in these cases. Here are some things you should consider when hiring a lone worker:
Risk assessments. Health and safety regulations require that employers conduct risk assessments, which involve identifying workplace hazards, assessing the risks arising from these hazards, and putting measures in place to control these risks. Particularly with respect to lone workers, it’s important to assess the situation to ensure an isolated employee can do their work safely.
Training. Employers should train all lone workers in emergency response and establish a clear action plan in case an emergency occurs.
Check-in procedures. Whether it’s required by law or not, it’s a good idea to have procedures in place for check-ins with lone workers. While OSHA’s shipbuilding regulations say employers should do this “at regular intervals,” they don't specify a frequency. It’s a good idea to have supervisors make site visits to periodically observe lone workers in person. There should also be a system in place to report the safe completion of a job.
Technology. With new technological developments constantly hitting the market, it’s never been easier to track and keep tabs on an individual. Tracking lone worker locations and movement is a great way to help keep them safe. Automatic warning devices mean lone workers are no longer on their own. Today's technology creates connected workers more efficiently than before.
Though the U.S. currently lacks legislation on this important issue, there are still many considerations to make when you put an employee on the job alone. Conducting assessments and developing action plans ahead of time can go a long way to mitigating the risks involved.
More Q&As from our experts
- What is a worker-powered organization?
- What’s the difference between a bump test, a calibration check, and a full calibration?
- What type of clothing should be worn inside a clean room?