The 5 Elements Your Lone Worker Policy Needs to Have
Your lone worker policy should be clear, comprehensive, and relevant to the actual working conditions employees face on the job.
Writing a lone worker policy can be one of the most important steps to creating an optimally safe environment for workers.
This is because a lone worker policy helps prepare you and your organization for all types of emergencies and fallout from accidents and liability-triggering events. It also encourages accountability among workers by educating them about the hazards of their job.
Writing a lone worker policy doesn’t need to be difficult, even for first-time health and safety executives.
In this quick guide, we’ll cover what makes a good lone worker safety policy, how to go about creating yours, and must-have elements that will ensure your lone worker policy is effective and embraced by all members of your organization.
What Is a Lone Worker Policy?
A lone worker policy is a standard document that any employer and their employees will follow in order to avoid accidents and adhere to general safety precautions. The elements of these safety measures will depend on your industry, your organization’s specific needs and the hazards that lone workers in your organization are likely to come across.
For example, common risks covered by lone worker policies in general include trips and falls (the second biggest cause of workplace accidents in the US in 2019 according to the BLS), transportation accidents, and workers endangering themselves as a result of actions they carry out as part of their daily routine.
(Learn more about Selecting the Correct Footwear to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls)
There are broader aspects of risk that can also be covered for all organizations, such as robbery, attacks, illness, and natural disasters. Depending on your company's history, location, and priorities, these are also good to include in your policy.
While the contents of a good lone worker polcy depend on the company, all the processes and procedures written in it should be clear and precise. This will make them easy to follow and remember.
Steps for Writing Your Lone Worker Policy
As you begin to write a lone worker policy for your organization, it’s important to gather all the relevant information to support it. You should also familiarize yourself with your organization’s history of dealing with health and safety issues, as well as with the routine procedures that all workers will be covering on a regular basis.
Here are some useful steps to follow:
- Separate your lone worker policy from your health and safety policy. Lone workers have different, and often greater, risks to face than the rest of your organization’s staff, which is why your regular health and safety manual won’t cover them adequately.
- Familiarize yourself with what a day in a lone worker’s life in your company looks like. If they encounter risks and hazards, how do they communicate them? Who are their main points of contact in the organization? How do they carry out their processes and who has trained them on the correct procedures? What measures are already in place?
- Learn the history of lone worker safety in your workplace. Find out if there have been any previous accidents or issues related to lone worker safety and see how they have been dealt with (whether they were handled well or poorly).
- Identify and document your lone workers’ hazards and risks. Speak to the workers themselves and get an understanding of the ways in which working alone creates different challenges than for those workers who are accompanied by others. This will form a key part of your lone worker policy document.
- Define roles and responsibilities, as well as clear processes to follow in each risk scenario. Ensure that the language is clear and unequivocal in your content. It would be a good idea to have one or more lone worker representatives review your policy and give feedback on the feasibility of your recommendations as well as check for anything you may have missed.
- Ensure there is a process in place for updating and keeping your policy current. An out-of-date lone worker policy that misses out on new equipment or rules will be useless in case of serious hazards in the future. Even a summary review of your content every year will be useful to keep your policy current and relevant.
The 5 Key Elements of Your Lone Worker Policy
While each organization will have very specific needs when it comes to documenting standard procedures for their lone workers’ safety, there are some general guidelines you can follow when you draft your own.
A Clear Purpose Statement
One concern linked to any company policy document like a lone worker policy is that employee engagement will be low. To avoid this, your document needs to spark interest and elicit commitment from lone workers. Link your lone worker policy to your company values, but also explain clearly why your organization wishes to have such a policy in place and how it benefits not just the company, but also the workers it’s meant to protect.
Identify and Clearly Outline Risks in Your Organization
The most successful policies in any domain are characterized by clear risk identification. Each lone worker situation is unique, so your policy needs to clearly explain the situations that workers can find themselves in, how these circumstances are created, and how they differ from alternative scenarios (non-hazardous as well as non-lone-worker scenarios).
A policy will get better buy-in if it depicts the risks and hazards clearly, evoking situations that lone workers will find familiar.
Define Roles and Responsibilities in Non-Negotiable Terms
Safety policies that only offer recommendations don’t create a sense of urgency or danger. This means they are less likely to be followed, especially by more experienced workers who may think they know enough to bypass certain procedures.
To avoid this, ensure that the roles, responsibilities, and operating procedures covered by your lone worker policy are outlined in clear, non-negotiable terms. Avoid words like “should” or “consider” in favor of “will” and “must.” To be clear about different possible scenarios, use “if” clauses: “If this situation arises, then you must act as follows.”
Put a Reporting Procedure in Place
To learn from incidents and continuously adapt and improve your company’s lone worker policy, it’s essential to put in place a clear and accessible reporting procedure. If your organization has a safety reporting function or system, make it clear how it can be used by workers.
Additionally, ensure that the reporting procedure described in the policy is communicated to all new employees. It should also form part of refresher training sessions for all workers.
Finally, add a process for reviewing reports and acting on recommendations that may arise from them.
Clarify Communication and Contact
A key ingredient in any successful policy is actually the way you disseminate the information. Simply having a well-written lone worker policy won’t be enough to eliminate the risk of injury or the hazards that workers face on a regular basis. Your organization’s policy needs to be accessible, clear to all, and easy to find and consult at any given time.
Some recommendations to this end include:
- Ensure lone workers have an identifiable point of contact for any issues or concerns that arise while they are on the job
- Cover the contents of your lone worker policy when training new employees or offering refresher training to more established workers
- Ensure that key contact information and the most important safety information is clearly displayed in visible areas where lone workers are expected to be
- Make a copy of the lone worker policy available at all times on the internal company website as well as in printed format at headquarters
Including the elements listed above and ensuring that your organization’s lone worker policy is based on lessons learned from history and on-site observation are key ways to guarantee a well-written document. When putting together your policy, you can also refer to some more detailed guides that take into account subtleties of your industry and company.
Gather as much relevant information as you can before drafting your lone worker policy and follow these steps to make sure you're including all the applicable hazards and procedures. Finally, have the workers review the policy and gather their feedback to ensure that the document is both relevant and practical.