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At Safety and Health Expo this afternoon, Nicole Vazquez, director, Worthwhile Training, discussed the risks facing lone workers and how dynamic risk assessment training can help them to trust their own judgement when away from the office.
Many of the risks faced by lone workers can be assessed and controlled with formal assessment and robust management. But when workers interact with people or use equipment away from base, situations may develop that need the lone worker to make judgements and take actions. This is where dynamic risk assessment (DRA) comes in.
DRA can be defined as spontaneous assessment, or on the spot risk assessment. It can also be considered as reactive risk assessment or even situational awareness. For example, a lone worker may be out on a visit to someone’s home, but when they get there something about the situation makes them feel uneasy. DRA would give them the tools needed to react in a way that keeps them safe.
In her engaging talk, Vazquez said it’s all about the process and what the lone worker has been trained to do before going out on a job. Employers cannot just rely on the ‘common sense’ of their workers. They need proper training in place. Before a worker leaves they should look at any file there may be with further information about the job. Are there noted problems? Has the worker felt uncomfortable there before? If any potential problems are thought through before leaving it can help the worker once they get there. How many would feel comfortable getting to a job then leaving when they feel something isn’t right? Would they just continue anyway?
DRA also helps to manage risk during the experience, which can be useful if it is not always possible to identify all hazards ahead of time. It should be a tool that is used to increase awareness and make the lone worker notice potential risks. Vazquez stresses that lone workers can be proactive about their safety – letting someone know where they are going and when they’ll be back are easy steps towards this.
Vazquez went on to describe one of the tools they can use: PET – people, environment, task. If a lone worker does need to return to base because of an incident, they can use these to describe to their employer what went wrong. Was it the person making them uncomfortable, the place they were expected to perform their task, or the task itself that they did not feel equipped to deal with? This may help the employer accept that the worker did in fact have to leave, much more so than a ‘bad feeling’.
The talk concluded with Vazquez saying employers need to help their lone workers feel safe enough to return without completing a job. They have to mean “don’t do it if it’s not safe” and not just say it. They have to trust their workers’ judgement. And DRA can help them do that.