Countering the risks of the lone worker
Many people in Minnesota may enjoy working alone and feel comfortable working independently without others around. However, when it comes to workplace injuries, being alone can be a serious liability. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recognizes this, and has set standards that employers must follow.
The primary responsibility of the employer is to check in with the worker at regular intervals to make sure he or she is safe. OSHA does not specify how this should be done, but it may be feasible through radio, phone or other verbal communication, or it could be a visual update, in person or electronically, depending on the circumstances. At the end of the job or the shift, the employer also needs to account for the worker’s safety.
While this may sound straightforward at first, a person at a remote location may be difficult to contact. The National Safety Council’s Safety and Health Magazine recommends that employers take additional actions to ensure safety.
Evaluation of the work environment and duties are essential. The employer may need to make some tasks off-limits to lone workers if there is potential for injury, and others may require certain procedures to reduce or eliminate dangers.
No matter how safe a job is, accidents can happen, and a seriously injured worker who is not discovered or rescued for some time could sustain even worse harm as a result. Employers should create an emergency plan and provide training to the employee. There should also be a system that automatically alerts others to a problem if the worker is unable to send or receive the regular check-in messages.