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How to Protect Lone Workers

Tech Tips - Nov 21

How to Protect Lone Workers

Jennifer Stiansen
Director of Marketing
JLG Industries

From workplace accidents to heat illness to animal attacks, people who work alone are at increased risk for injury and delays in medical care.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to maintain lone workers’ safety so they can go home at the end of the day in the same condition they arrived — and you stay compliant. 


Who are lone workers?

Lone workers perform their tasks alone, usually distanced from organizational resources and other team members. However, they might not always work in a remote, off-site location. The lone worker category can also apply to employees who are physically separated from others by working alone in an isolated area on-site. 

Whether working separately from others in a factory or off-site outside of normal working hours, people who perform tasks alone are at higher risk for workplace accidents and emergencies, inadequate breaks and even physical violence. When they are injured, lone workers are also less likely to have access to immediate help or medical support.


What standards protect lone workers?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines two key employer responsibility standards to protect people who work alone:

  • OSHA 1915.84: Working alone – This section outlines the standard by which employers must account for a lone worker by sight or verbal communication.
  • OSHA Section 5(a)(1): General Duty Clause – The clause outlines the employer’s responsibility to create a safe work environment, ensure adequate safety training, provide accommodations during severe weather and more.

Employers may need to consult industry-specific standards as well, such as 29 CFR 1910.146 for permit-required confined work spaces and 29 CFR 1910.120 for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HazWOPER).

Keep in mind that standards may vary across industries and locations. Work with your safety and legal team to ensure your workplace is compliant with all necessary OSHA regulations, relevant state or local guidelines and industry-specific guidance.


How can you keep lone workers safe on the job?

  • Conduct regular lone worker risk assessments. Along with formal assessments to identify current risks in a workplace, plan dynamic assessments to stay on top of potential hazards in new or high-risk environments.
  • Remove or mitigate identified hazards. Use formal and dynamic assessments to make informed decisions about possible hazards to lone workers.
  • Develop clear, concise lone worker policies. Written policies might include how to respond to emergency situations, expectations for checking in with supervisors and when/how to use on-site support resources.
  • Train lone workers on best safety practices. Regular training helps ensure employees in these situations better understand the risks and responsibilities when working alone, as well as emergency protocols.
  • Consider technology. From automated fall-detection devices to apps with monitoring and check-in technologies, consider how innovations like these can reduce risk, increase worker safety and help you maintain compliance.

Whether working alone at a jobsite or completing tasks in an isolated area of the facility, lone workers have an increased risk of injury. By taking a strategic approach, you can help keep lone workers safe on the job and stay compliant.


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