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5 Proven Steps to Keep Lone Workers Safe

April 4, 2024
Here’s what you can do to protect your most vulnerable workers.

It’s easy to see what employees are doing on the shop floor. But what about those who are working at remote sites, driving a vehicle and in isolated areas on worksites, or in industrial facilities?

These are all examples of lone workers, people who work alone without close contact with, or supervision by, other workers.

The variety and number of circumstances that encompass lone work might surprise you. While occupations like long-haul truck drivers or after-hours security guards might come to mind, the reality is the definition of what constitutes working alone is much broader. The number of lone workers is on the rise globally, with an estimated 15-20% of employees today working on their own.

What’s more, studies show that nearly half (44%) of lone workers report feeling unsafe at work and 20% of those say they have struggled to get help after an incident. Exposure to gas or harmful chemicals; slips, trips and falls; assaults; unstable weather; and sudden health events, such as heart attacks and strokes, are just some of the dangers that can have dire consequences for people working alone.

In a 2023 report, 75% of employees, including lone workers, state their employers’ safety efforts are not very effective; 71% don’t think employers are following through on safety promises; and 64% believe their employers are not actively improving safety training.

However, addressing hazards in the workplace can greatly reduce costly injuries and safety incidents. The Liberty Mutual Safety Index states that every $1 invested in a safety program yields a $4 return on investment.

Here’s more good news: Organizations can take actions to protect their lone workers, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. From my experience working with companies around the globe, here are what I have found to be five proven steps to support a robust lone worker safety program.

1. Conduct a safety audit to identify lone workers and the specific risks they face.

Whether done internally or through an independent third-party, it’s critical to have a full picture of all circumstances in which your people work alone. Core to this process is identifying and assessing the unique lone worker situations and roles in your organization.

Typically, lone workers fall into four broad categories:

  • those who work separately from others at a fixed worksite;
  • those who work alone away from the main worksite;
  • mobile workers, including delivery drivers, truck drivers, utility inspectors, etc.; and
  • shift workers with irregular hours.

Aim to consider factors such as who is at risk, hazard identification, level of risk and precautionary measures for risk mitigation.

The most common risks to lone workers include, but are not limited to:

  • gas or chemical exposure;
  • slips, trips and falls;
  • electrocution;
  • equipment accidents;
  • motor vehicle accidents;
  • sleep disruption and poor quality of sleep, which can lead to compromised attention;
  • sudden illness;
  • weather hazards;
  • remoteness; and
  • workplace violence.


2. Build a robust safety policy in compliance with relevant legislation.

Based on the safety assessment, the next step is to develop a comprehensive lone worker policy. While a lone worker policy will need to be customized to be effective, there are some basic common elements to incorporate. These include:

  • a statement of policy purpose;
  • risk assessment results from the aforementioned safety audit;
  • outlined roles and responsibilities for the employer, management, and workers;
  • reporting procedures; and
  • employee training resources.

When drafting your lone worker policy, it’s helpful to start with a template, which can be tailored to the needs of your organization and team. Whether you’re developing a new policy or updating an existing one, you should review it at least annually to ensure it remains relevant to the current work environment and is compliant with any new legislation.

Having a good understanding of the legislation in your jurisdiction is vital when drafting your lone worker policy. The United Kingdom, for instance, has the most stringent requirements in the world, with legislation that outlines formal parameters on the responsibility of employers and lone worker monitoring equipment.

In the U.S., OSHA’s General Duty Clause stipulates employers have a legal obligation to provide a workplace free from recognizable hazards that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. Often, abating the hazard includes a method for your worker to get reliable help when and where they need it.

Meanwhile, Canada regulates working alone in three-quarters of provinces and territories with employer requirements to assess the health and safety hazards associated with each particular job.

3. Invest in technology to boost policy implementation.

There are many new technologies for lone workers on the market today, including wearables and apps. These technologies are proven to save lives and can be customized to an organization’s specific safety policy and programs. Key features and services to consider—as well as questions to ask—include:

  • Location technology. Does it integrate GPS to provide accurate positioning outdoors, complemented by location beacons to boost positioning indoors?
  • Real-time visibility. Does it harness built-in cellular connectivity for continuous data streaming?
  • Connectivity. Does it offer additional satellite connectivity for a fail-safe way to keep in touch, even in the most remote locations?
  • Two-way voice. Does it enable monitoring personnel to connect directly with lone workers via a speakerphone?
  • Emergency SOS. Does it allow employees to call for help manually and silently to access support discreetly?
  • Fall/no motion, missed check-in detection. Does it detect if a worker fails to check in; is motionless; or slips, trips or falls? Does it trigger an alarm to alert monitoring personnel?
  • Gas detection. Does it scale to detect potentially toxic, asphyxiant and explosive gas leaks in the atmosphere if needed?
  • Reporting. Does it offer automated analytics out-of-the-box to manage compliance and glean insights into worker behavior?
  • Live monitoring. Does it provide 24/7 live monitoring with professionally trained agents to expertly manage emergency alerts in real-time to ensure a faster, more informed response?

The more comprehensive your technology solution, the more lives can potentially be saved.

4. Embrace change management to support adoption.

A new or updated safety policy will invariably involve altering how things are done in the workplace. This makes the management of change a core component to set your lone worker program up for success.

New technology, for example, often involves asking people to do their jobs differently or to learn additional skills. It’s paramount to educate workers on the rationale for any changes, involve them in the decision-making process, and give them the opportunity to pilot new equipment and procedures.

You’ll want to make sure your program rollout is backed by clear communication to impacted stakeholders on the rationale for change. You’ll also want to make sure you provide opportunities to address any resistance.

As with any type of new technology or monitoring tools, workers will be concerned about privacy and data use. It’s important to communicate that wearable technology is designed to monitor your workers' safety — not the length of their breaks or how long it takes them to drive between sites. If your workers are unionized, it will also be critical to engage with union leaders and representatives to get buy-in and ensure any union agreements are being considered.

You’ll also want vocal and visible leadership to socialize the change together with a supportive cohort of internal ambassadors who cheerlead, rally and inspire their co-workers to get excited about the change. Studies show that peer collaboration is a preferred method of learning with benefits that include higher engagement levels and a higher success rate. People are more likely to get involved if recruited by a peer with a message that resonates.

When it comes time to implement the change, a comprehensive onboarding and training plan is vital. Aim for a mix of training options to meet diverse business needs, such as on-site training, self-serve training, virtual instruction-led training, or train-the-trainer. Different training methods help accommodate learning preferences and make it easier for remote workers to access to the training. You’ll also want to make sure you track training completion so you can easily access information on who completed the training and when they might be due for a refresher.

5. Close the gaps with data to improve.

To monitor the effectiveness of your lone worker safety policy, regular assessment and review is key. Methods such as post-training evaluations, employee surveys and data from technology use are effective ways to measure and gather feedback on safety policy and procedures, change acceptance and adequacy of support.

Most connected lone worker monitoring devices, for example, have automated analytics and reporting features that can provide vital data on usage, compliance and trends. This information can further be broken down by location, team or data range to get a clearer picture of adoption and worker behavior, together with insights to mitigate hazards and stay a step ahead of risk.


Lone workers face increased risks every day they go to work. The National Safety Council states almost 70% of organizations have reported safety incidents involving people who work alone. Performing duties out of sight and earshot of others means accidents may go unnoticed and help may be severely delayed, making the outcome of an incident likely much more severe for lone workers.

An effective lone worker program is the foundation for protecting the health and safety of vulnerable workers, setting the playbook for those who work by themselves with no close supervision. With the lone worker pool only expected to increase, the time to start planning is now.


Randall Arms is a channel operations and lone worker safety specialist at Blackline Safety, a global leader in connected safety technology.

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