The definition of a lone worker:
A lone worker is, as the name suggests, an employee who will perform his or her work in isolation. However, it is important to know how to differentiate between a lone worker and a lone worker. The distinction is made in the notion of proximity or not with other individuals.
A lone worker is more precisely defined as an employee who performs his work out of sight or out of mind and who cannot be rescued within a short time in case of danger.
The INRS (french insitute) defines the term lone worker as "the performance of a task by a person alone, in a work environment where he or she cannot be seen or heard directly by others and where the probability of being visited is low."
A lone worker is an employee who performs at least one task in isolation. The duration of the isolation will allow the perceived risk to be identified and measured, but it is always present.
Obviously, the longer the period of isolation, the greater the risk. But the dangerousness and risk exposure of a site must also be taken into account in the identification of risks. Being isolated for 5 minutes in a hazardous area can be fatal. This individual will not only be considered as a lone worker, but measures will have to be taken for his safety and in priority to other employees.
A lone worker is therefor an employee who will perform a work phase out of sight and/or hearing of any other individual. Thus, a night worker, on call, will always be considered as isolated because the traffic is often minimal and the sight is very low.
Lone workers can be found in almost all sectors, whether in construction, industry, hospitals, transport or any other service company (cleaning, maintenance, catering)... In a more general way, we can quote some posts very often confronted with the notion of isolated work: laborer, technician, craftman, maintenance agent, sales technician, nurse, driver and delivery man, security guard,... etc.
We recently identified the most represented sectors among our community of users, and as you can see, all sectors are at risk :
The 4 families of major risks for the lone worker
We can identify 4 major families of risks for lone workers: medical risks, psychological risks, risks related to external violence and, above all, risks of accidents.
Medical risks are due to the fragility or pathologies of certain employees. For example, the appearance of symptoms may temporarily interrupt the mission being carried out by the isolated worker. Anxiety attacks or dizziness may also compromise the continuation of the assignment. In certain situations, the task may become totally impossible, as in the case of epileptic or cardiac seizures.
Thus, the lone worker can find himself in very bad postures and cannot be helped by anyone in case of total isolation.
Being isolated can impact the psychological situation of lone workers. Their attitude is largely impacted by their individual perceptions of their isolation. This notion of psychological isolation is subject to considerable personal variability.
The situation of isolation may be perceived by some employees as an abandonment, a heightened risk or simply a lack of humain contact necessary to their daily lives.
The isolated worker may also fear certain situations. For example, they may feel more at risk or apprehensive about being alone when faced with a decision they have to make, given their solitude.
Risks related to external violence
External violence can take many forms. It can take the form of overbal, physical or psychological aggression against a person in the performance of their duties. Isolated work contributes to aggression because a person who is alone is more easily vulnerable and can be perceived as "prey". Moreover, sectors where the risk is high are often composed of lone workers. This is the case, for example, in personal services with physical or verbal aggression. This is also the case in the transport, meter reading, delivery, cleaning or commercial canvassing sectors, as these workers have to frequent more risky places.
This external violence can have repercussions on the health of the lone worker. Indeed, if physical aggressions are well recognized, harassment or repetitive verbal attacks are not always recognized.
Risks due to accidents
Finally, the last large family represents accidents. Without any apparent fragility, as opposed to medical risks, any individual can obviously face an accident either with a physical element of his activity (fall, injury, etc.) or simply an accident of medical nature (fainting, loss of consciousness). These accidents are not only daily occurrences in France, but they are difficult to anticipate. There is no such thing as zero risk, so it is essential for any lone worker to be able to guarantee that help will be available in the event of a problem.
The situation of lone workers: how to deal with it?
Isolation intensifies not only the probability of an accident but also its severity. Indeed, the consequences of an accident are aggravated because the damage caused by an accident worsens with the intervention time of the rescue forces. The quality and duration of interventions is therefore an important variable in the severity rate of accidents of lone workers.
In order to overcome all these problems related to isolation, a lone worker alarm system can be set up. Its main mission is to ensure that the employee wearing the lone worker device is rescued in case of accident or danger. To do this, the lone worker solution must be able to send alerts on dangerous situations in manual or automatic ways (fall detection, prolonged immobility...). It will thus ensure the safety of the worker and guarantee him a fast intervention of the help in case of danger.
And don't forget... There is no such thing as zero risk, and if the employee must work in isolation, the lone worker alert system is necessary for their safety. If you want to know more about what the legislation says about lone workers, click here.