Recent surveys expose a telling discrepancy between how companies think about their lone worker safety performance and how it’s actually perceived by the lone workers themselves.
Needless to say this is problematic for all parties. But before exploring the underlying reasons and possibly touching upon a solution, here are some of the more revealing survey findings:
- Nearly all companies gave themselves a perfect score when it comes to taking the safety of lone workers seriously.
- Only 45% of lone workers agreed.
- 33% of lone workers share the impression that financial targets and deadlines take priority over their safety.
- 92% of companies are convinced that their lone workers talk to them about nearly all safety concerns and incidents.
- Only about 36% of lone workers reported incidents where they felt unsafe.
- When an incident occurred, 83% of companies took action.
- A significant minority of 17% did not!
- 78% of executives claim to have addressed their lone workers’ worriment in a fair and adequate manner.
- Only 45% of lone workers agree.
A troublesome dissonance, for multiple reasons
Any worker can fall, trip or be struck by a moving object. Still, lone workers often run a higher risk, simply because there’s no one that can immediately assist or support them when things go sideways.
Also, lone workers are generally more susceptible to feeling disconnected from colleagues. Then there’s the added stress of having to make decisions and facing possible unsafe situations without immediate backup. All this can weigh heavily on the mental wellbeing of lone workers.
Blocking the spiral
From the company’s point of view it’s in everyone’s best interest to mitigate these feelings of physical unsafety and mental distress. Because: if there’s no sense of mitigation, aggravation is as good as guaranteed.
This can feed into a downward spiral, resulting in loss of worker motivation, loyalty and eventually loss of days, weeks, … .
Additionally, it may increase the under-reporting of safety incidents. Which in turn could lead to an under-estimation of the risks on the company’s side. Result: actually required updates or upgrades of (preventive) safety systems and protocols are not deemed necessary.
… and the lone worker will feel even more disconnected, unsafe and left to his own devices. Or, just as alarming: he’ll tend to underestimate the risk he faces.
A new, previously unknown priority
It should go without saying that first and foremost companies need to have all the systems and processes in place to keep lone workers just as safe as they would non lone workers. This includes:
- Identifying, assessing and managing lone worker hazards and risks
- Creating and deploying a comprehensive lone worker safety policy and structure.
But as the survey results above showed: there is also a need for a better aligning of worker and manager/supervisor perceptions. Following steps will put you on the right track:
- Deploying a broader range of useful communications
- Finding out where, when and why perceptions diverge
- Checking whether these perceptions from both worker and company are based on factual truths
- … and come up with ways to correct it if and when they aren’t.
Worst case: Lone workers feel unsafe because their company doesn’t take its lone worker safety seriously.
Better but far from perfect: Lone workers feel unsafe because they unjustly think their company doesn’t take its lone worker safety seriously.
Best case: Lone workers feel safer because they know their company actually takes its lone worker safety seriously.