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June 10, 2015

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Safety for lone workers – another box-ticking exercise?

By Ian Johannessen, managing director of Peoplesafe

People in all sorts of fields can find themselves working alone for some or all of their time. It might be a social worker going out to see a family, a lorry driver delivering food to shops or a salesperson at a new housing estate.

Whatever the situation those workers need their safety managed so that they are protected. They need to be able to know they have support when something goes wrong. Employers know they are responsible for their staff when they are out of sight and are desperate not to fall into the ‘out of mind’ trap. To help with this they issue some ‘rules’ about checking in and out but then find that these arrangements are rarely effective. They may even purchase a clever safety gadget and tell their staff to always carry it with them. When this is still not effective then the only way employers will find out is the hard way when there is a near miss, or worse.

Sadly that’s as far as it goes… until they call Peoplesafe.

It’s easy to tick boxes, but it will not make staff safer.

Every Health and Safety Manager is desperate to avoid being seen as just ticking boxes. With support and insight they can get things done right. We often go into organisations and find they have ticked all of the boxes and in theory done all the right things, yet their safety equipment lies in a cupboard or gets left in the glove box of the car or lorry.

It does not take the Health & Safety Manager to realise that the ‘lone worker policy’ is not effective; it’s just words written down on a page of the company handbook. How does this happen?

It’s because the objective of the exercise has to be to change behaviour. If you begin with the aim of embedding the welfare of your lone workers into the organisations safety culture then you at in the right starting point.

Here is the challenge: An employer who values their staff will work with them, train, educate and lead them to maximise their voluntary choice to engage with a service that is designed, purchased and managed to protect and support them. The hard part is to complete the job and move culture forward so that staff comply with a thoughtfully considered policy and there must be consequences for non-compliance.

Education will ensure that the usual excuses for non-compliance are resolved and removed.

With Peoplesafe this means making sure you have the right equipment for each member of staff, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to keeping lone workers safe. Peoplesafe provide high quality training for staff and managers to know how equipment works, but, more importantly, to know how to manage their own safety through good choices. Policies frame the training skills with dynamic risk assessment being particularly important in strong safety culture organisations. It means reviewing and testing the policy and procedures on a regular basis, so that if the worst does happen you are prepared.

At Peoplesafe we don’t sell quick fixes to tick a box, we support you to make sure those solutions work – for you and for your staff. After all lives and livelihoods are dependent on getting it right.

Peoplesafe will be exhibiting at the UK’s leading health and safety event the Safety & Health Expo at London’s Excel from June 16 to 18 on stand M2050.

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