Training Consultant

Author Bio ▼

Nicole runs Worthwhile Training and has over 20 years experience assisting organisations with practical advice to manage the risks associated employee’s personal safety, security and wellbeing.  She works with organisations to design, implement and embed control measures and training solutions to achieve measurable results.
July 18, 2017

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Safety and Health Expo: Key lessons from the lone worker theatre


This was my third year chairing the lone worker theatre at the Safety & Health Expo, and  it had a different feel than previous years, writes Nicole Vazquez.

We still had full seats on pretty much all of the sessions, but the visitors that attended asked different questions and had different priorities! I’ve racked my brains to think about why this was the case, and I’m not sure I have the answer, but I’ll share with you my thoughts.

For many years, the main issue for lone workers was often seen as the potential for violence or aggression, and although this may still be a real concern in some sectors, it is by no means the only one. There is now a much greater recognition in the safety world that lone working happens in a vast array of sectors, brings a wide range of risks and that these risks are as varied as the tasks lone works carry out.

In addition, there has been an increase in mobile lone workers across the UK and abroad, and due to recent tragic deaths and legal cases, an increase in the need to provide assurance that robust communication and support mechanisms are in place.

New audience

I believe this led to a new audience attending the lone worker theatre with questions on how to manage risks associated with lone working in utilities, engineering, railways, construction, housing and forestry to name a few.

The enlightened amongst the audience, also recognised that, on top of the more traditional health and safety issues, there is a need to look at the impact lone working can have on stress levels, mental health and wellbeing.

With some very knowledgeable and experienced speakers and exhibitors, visitors were not disappointed!

We began and ended the three days with panel discussions on the challenges of managing lone working (and lone workers) and embedding effective lone worker solutions. With experts in psychology, stress, security, training and technology we were able to explore both the risks faced and some practical solutions.

Carrot or stick

Questions from the audience flew in when we hit the tricky dilemma of ‘carrot or stick’ – how do you ensure compliance when you have little contact with your lone workers?

The panel discussed the increasing challenge of more employees working remotely and agreed that a holistic approach was necessary to engage and embed change.

Prof-Derek-MowbrayProfessor Derek Mowbray (pictured, left) specialist in organisation health psychology, stated that conviction (belief that it is the right thing to do) was better than enforcement (being directed to do).

The key take away from the panel sessions were:

  • Engage with lone workers early
  • Work with them to design effective and acceptable solutions
  • Embed changes through training and management support
  • Find a way of keeping the enthusiasm alive!

The theatre included presentations from representatives of organisations who were willing to share lessons they had learned when putting in risk controls.

They were honest enough to share the pitfalls and mistakes they had made along the way and it was great to have a reality check – sometimes what looks great on paper doesn’t always translate well in to practice.

Risk perception

Jayne-King-HeadshotJayne King, (pictured, left) head of security and site services at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust, shared her experience of providing security solutions to both main hospital sites and to community workers.

One interesting question from the audience “Do we manage the perceived risk or the actual risk?” sparked a great conversation. It was fascinating to hear about how the risk perception of staff had an impact on the measures taken.

Looking at a completely different challenge, John Ireland, health & safety advisor for the Forestry Commission Scotland demonstrated how difficult it could be to find an injured lone worker in the open (think Highlands of Scotland and dense fog). He talked about how accurate GPS and the advances in technology could really help in these situations. John shared the challenges of engaging staff and the importance of influencing their behaviour by changing the safety culture within the organisation, until it became simply ‘how we do things around here’.

Several of our speakers explored the advantages and advances in available technology. Craig Swallow, chair of the BSIA lone worker section, reminded delegates of the legal requirements to manage lone working risks and the potential impact on businesses (from criminal prosecution to brand damage) if organisations get it wrong.

He also brought home the importance of approaching this as more than a ‘tick box’ exercise and talked about how poor implementation would fail to give you the return on investment or the safety improvements needed. A well implemented solution Craig said could do more than meet the duty of care and would lead to a “safer, happier and more productive workforce”.

Wellbeing issue

The increasingly important topic of wellbeing was addressed by two speakers.

Joanne-CrawfordDr Joanne Crawford, (pictured, left) head of ergonomics and human factors at the Institute of Occupational Medicine shared some of the findings from research which looked at remote and lone workers. She reminded us of the importance of addressing the causes of psychological distress and the psycho-social risks.

Dr Derek Mowbray joined us again to discuss Personal Resilience and its importance for Lone Workers.  He explored some of the challenges lone workers may face including: feeling isolated, ambiguous expectations and having to fix everything yourself.

He challenged the audience to think about their own personal resilience by looking at the ingredients of psychological wellbeing (self-esteem, hope, gratitude, empowerment, etc) and shared some very practical exercises that everyone and anyone could use.


Throughout the three days we spoke about how vital it is to train lone workers, providing them with practical tools and techniques to manage their own safety.

I shared with the audience some ideas on how to engage lone workers in training. And looked specifically at what strategies enable people to take control of their own reactions when faced with a threat to their safety.

As light relief, and to prove a point, I asked the audience to join in (with a particularly silly exercise) and they did, a great way to demonstrate that interactive training is the way to go!

There were many more speakers that added value throughout the three days and the positive and encouraging feedback we received was amazing.

So many visitors stayed between sessions to chat about their concerns and experiences and ask for specific advice that maybe next year we’ll add a lone worker surgery to the list of activities. Watch this space!

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