Planning for Lone or Isolated Work

Industrial, residential, or commercial locations may be subjected to work that requires isolated or lone-worker situations.  When performing work in areas accessible by the public, appropriate pre-work planning is crucial and should include personal assault hazard mitigation. 

Consider situations where employees may be temporarily isolated from others in a group (e.g., when flaggers are spaced apart to control traffic for construction or surveying activities) or working on their own in public locations where personal/public interaction is possible.  These interactions may be a result of curious on-lookers, irritated drivers, or may involve individuals looking for an opportunity to cause personal harm to isolated or lone workers.  

Consider the following safe work practices when evaluating isolated worker hazards:

  • Determine if the situation requires a lone worker or if there is an alternative to completing the task(s).
  • Discuss procedures and expectations with workers who may work in areas where they may not be visible to others.
  • Offer an alternate method of communication (e.g., cell phone with a booster, GPS unit, or two-way radio) in areas inhibited by location, terrain, or technology (e.g., lack of cellular phone coverage), which prevents the ability to summon emergency services.
  • Designate the circumstances and frequency a lone worker is to required to check-in.
  • Remind workers to remain aware of their surroundings and communicate potential public interactions before they occur, regardless of the perceived danger.
  • Apply the same precautions for all work areas, even if working in a low-crime area.
  • During morning or pre-work meetings, discuss the safest course of action when encountering a hostile person or persons.

When confronted with hostile intent, it is best to cooperate and release any belongings to preserve personal safety, however, it is important to know how to avoid confrontation as well as defensive measures to thwart an attack: 

Use confident body language - Assailants often choose targets based on the likelihood of their successful attack. Confident body language may send the assailant a signal that you are strong-minded and an unworthy victim.

Maintain eye contact - As with body language, eye contact gives the message that you see someone and are ready to respond to their actions.

Alert others - If a potentially hostile person approaches you, use your voice by yelling “NO” or “STOP,” which alerts anyone nearby that you are in distress and may need help.

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Brian Pelan
OSE Director, Laramie, WY

Brian has over 20 years of professional experience in environmental, health, safety, and security (EHS&S). His areas of expertise include EHS&S risk management; ISO systems management & auditing; fluid recovery/recycling; and industrial hygiene services.
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