A Lone Worker is an employee who performs an activity that is carried out in isolation from other workers without close or direct supervision. Such staff are exposed to increased risk because there is no one to assist them. The US, Canada and many other countries have regulations around an employer’s responsibility to Lone Workers that every company should be aware of for their country and locality.
The largest safety hazard to Lone Workers is the risk of falling. Workers can quite easily be knocked unconscious by falls, and their lives are at risk while in this vulnerable state. Someone who has been knocked unconscious can drown, die from inability to breathe due to body position, and be hurt by objects in the environment that can no longer be avoided.
Workers could also suffer from concussions that they are unaware of, and may resume work in an impaired state. This can lead to another fall or other serious accident. It is imperative that someone other than the worker is made aware of a fall immediately, and can assess physical and cognitive condition.
According to OSHA’s 2015 report, approximately 1 in 5 reported fatalities were fall related.1
The CDC found that, based on 14 years of NTOF surveillance data, “falls from elevations were the fourth leading cause of occupational fatalities from 1980 through 1994.” 2
According to the World Health Organization, “Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide.” 3
Falls are a serious danger and are the second leading cause of death in the construction industry. We know that unless workers are securely tied to something at all times, which is impossible, falls are always a risk. Prevention is very important, but to save lives when it fails, response time is the key.
A study by Columbia University shows how important it is to respond quickly to an accident. The results show that “response times significantly affect mortality.” In this study, an increase of one minute in response time increased mortality by between 8 and 17 percent. 4
As you can see, it is essential for employers to be alerted to accidents for the purpose of responding to them rapidly.
In OSHA’s guide for protecting roofing workers, the following is required of employers.
“Emergency Action Plan (EAP) Employers must train workers in any emergency action plan required by OSHA standards (29 CFR 1926.35(e)(2)). EAPs must include, among other information, the preferred means of reporting emergencies and procedures for evacuating the area (29 CFR 1926.35(b)). Workers should always know the street address of where they are working in case they need to give emergency services their location. Post the site street address and emergency contact information in prominent locations. This will allow workers to quickly contact emergency services with necessary information.” 5
Many employers are unaware of their Lone Worker legal responsibilities. Some important Federal regulations to be aware of include:
OSHA 1915.84(a) Except as provided in § 1915.51(c)(3) of this part, whenever an employee is working alone, such as in a confined space or isolated location, the employer shall account for each employee:
1915.84(a)(1) Throughout each work shift at regular intervals appropriate to the job assignment to ensure the employee’s safety and health; and
1915.84(a)(2) At the end of the job assignment or at the end of the work shift, whichever occurs first.
1915.84(b) The employer shall account for each employee by sight or verbal communication. 6
On Canada’s Prince Edward Island the Occupational Health & Safety Act requires this:
The employer must provide a written procedure that “details of the means by which a worker who is working alone can secure, and the employer can provide, assistance in the event of injury or other circumstances that may endanger the health or safety of the worker.” Other areas in Canada are under similar regulations and we recommend that you check on them for your locality. Do you have this requirement met? Another thing to think about is how can you meet this requirement for a worker who has suffered unconsciousness?
Notice the federal requirement for accounting for each employee “at regular intervals appropriate to the job assignment to ensure the employee’s safety and health”. Canada shares some similar check in requirements. In this case, what does that mean? Every hour or every 15 minutes? It appears to be up to the employer; without some form of automated monitoring system, check-ins would need to be more frequent.
Since a reasonable amount of time can leave dangerous gaps in which a worker could fall (e.g. A worker falls 10 minutes after an hourly check in and is left in peril for 50 minutes), the best way to meet this requirement is by using a communications-based immediate response system.
The cost to a company of a worker falling is enormous. OSHA says this about fall costs:
“Direct costs include workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and costs for legal services. Examples of indirect costs include training replacement employees, accident investigation and implementation of corrective measures, lost productivity, repairs of damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.” 8
Financial costs to a company from a fall-related death are the smallest consequence. A Lone Worker who is routinely at height, on slippery surfaces, or around other dangers that create vulnerability to a fall, is of long-term value to the company on a professional and personal level. To lose someone on the job when a rapid response could have saved them is a tragedy. Fall safety is insured by immediate detection and rapid response. This knowledge can save lives and protect your business.
If your workers use iPhones, then a great solution is software, because you already own state of the art equipment with all of the capabilities needed for an immediate response system. FallSafety is an app available on iPhone that will detect falls as soon as they happen and notify emergency contacts within seconds so that rescue can be sent. It automatically provides their GPS location in an emergency.
This application will turn your workers’ mobile devices into automated Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Contact us now, and we will give you your first month free, as one of our early adopters of a new level of safety.