Alberta’s lone worker legislation came into force in 2000, yet many businesses still struggle to comply. Some assume that their safety program is sufficient without specific support for people working alone. Others have separate processes for work-alone scenarios, but find that those systems impact productivity.New technologies solve these problems. They make it possible to comply with regulations, stay efficient and productive, and keep workers safer. As of June 1, 2018, compliance is more important than ever. Most employers in Alberta, Canada have employees who need to work alone, and new legislation asserts that workers now have the right to refuse dangerous work.
Four things employers must do to protect lone workers
Lone workers may include industrial workers, retail clerks, professionals who travel to clients, security guards and others who may not have assistance readily available if there is an emergency. In Working Alone Safely: A Guide for Employers and Employees, the government outlines four things employers must do when employees work alone:
1. Assess the hazards – this involves examining the workplace as well as incidents and experiences in the past. Notably, the assessment must be completed in writing and communicated to relevant staff.
2. Eliminate or reduce risks – employers must take “practical steps” to eliminate the hazards. When this isn’t possible, they must have procedures established that will mitigate risk.
3. Provide an effective communication system – communication involves the ability of the worker to contact someone if they need help, as well as regular interval contact or check-ins, appropriate to the level of risk. For employees who perform hazardous work, such as in forestry and oil and gas, the recommendations are:
- Regular telephone, cell phone, or radio contact
- Scheduled check-in points with other employees
- Alarm system that could alert other employees
- “Overdue employee” procedure to initiate searches for employees who fail to report
4. Train employees – employees need to be aware of hazards and educated appropriately.
Key components to an effective communication system
Implementing effective communication has challenges. Some companies establish a check-in process, where workers are required to contact a manager at regular intervals. If a worker fails to check in, however, the manager has no visibility into what has happened. The worker may be injured – or simply forgot. Managers can spend hours chasing down information about missed check-ins, and that will interfere with the work itself. Similarly, if a worker tries to call to check-in but there’s no one to answer, a worker can end up on hold on the phone instead of working.
Another challenge is that an alarm system is only as effective as the data it includes. If a worker sends a text that they’ve been injured, but is unable to send more information, the response team has no visibility into the situation and may not even know the employee’s location.
New technologies bring real-time data and two-way, personal communication to lone workers. Options such as SafetyAware can be up and running in minutes across your workforce and provide all the support that both workers and their managers need. An effective communication system should include these aspects:
1. Works with multiple devices
Workers will use both cell phones and satellite devices, so you’ll want to ensure that you have a solution that works with both. If a worker is injured, they may not be able to use even their phone, so they should also be equipped with a wearable device that can easily and quickly call for help.
2. Puts real people in place to help – with two-way communication
Automated check-ins fail when there is no one – other than a busy manager – to track down the reason for a missed check-in. They also fail when communication only goes one way. You should choose a solution that includes both a simple contact method for workers (such as an app) and a monitoring centre with real people looking into alerts, investigating any missed check-ins and responding in person to any worker facing an emergency.
3. Uses real-time data to help the response team
Your safety solution should collect life-saving data about the worker, including:
- Time: of a current alert as well as all previous check-ins or updates
- Location: GPS data to pinpoint exact whereabouts
- Condition: the state of the worker
- Activity: what the worker is doing, including, importantly, any hazards they identified during their shift
4. Gives you reports that help you be proactive
When workers identify risks throughout the day, those alerts become data that helps you be proactive. You can know who is most at-risk where, identify trends, and help improve your safety performance over time.
In fact, a good lone-worker safety solution supports other elements of safety compliance, such as emergency response plans, support for drivers (e.g., automated in-motion check-ins), and a record of encounters with hazards. Your safety solution should work with your business to ensure optimal efficiency now and into the future.
To learn more about technology-based lone worker solutions, download our e-book: A Guide to Lone Worker Safety Solutions.
If you’d like a free demo of SafetyAware, just contact us. We’d love to hear from you.