How do you manage the risks faced by lone workers in your company? This is something you should consider as such risks are a key part of what's now known as The Prescribed Risk Management Process. This outlines several duties and responsibilities you must adhere to.
Okay, so what's this all about. The Prescribed Risk Management Process is a central part of the New Zealand Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016. These are the new regulations that place an onus on everyone doing business in New Zealand to take steps to ensure workplaces are free from risk.
The Prescribed Risk Management Process is detailed in the interpretive guidelines for the legislation. Worksafe New Zealand publishes the guidelines.
So, let's get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to know in relation to lone workers.
What Is the Prescribed Risk Management Process?
Remote and isolated workers are one of five categories of risk outlined in The Prescribed Risk Management Process. This process describes what you should do to mitigate these risks in your business.
In broad terms, the process has three main steps:
- Identify the potential hazards - all lone workers face hazards.
- Eliminate the hazards - this is simple for some hazards such as something that might cause a worker to trip over. Eliminating the risks that lone workers face, however, is difficult, if not impossible.
- When it is not possible to eliminate the risk, the risk must be minimised - you must do this by implementing control measures.
What Are Control Measures?
If you have lone workers in your organisation, you will need to implement control measures to minimise the risks they face. You should do this in two ways:
- Reducing the likelihood of the risk occurring - there is a range of measures you can take to achieve this including providing safety equipment and training.
- Minimising the level of harm if the risk does occur - with lone workers, you have limited options for achieving this. There are, however, solutions.
What Is the Hierarchy of Control Measures?
The interpretive guidelines for the General Risk and Workplace Management regulations outline the control measures you should implement. You can use more than one control measure, but the guidelines present them in a hierarchy. This means you should explore the feasibility of the first control measure before moving onto the second.
The five risk minimisation control measures in hierarchical order are:
- Substitution - substituting the hazard with something that involves less risk
- Isolation - isolating the hazard to prevent it from affecting anyone
- Engineering controls - imposing physical controls to reduce the potential of the hazard affecting an individual
- Administrative controls - implementing processes and procedures to minimise the risk
- Personal protective equipment - giving staff safety equipment
As you can see, the only suitable control measure for many lone worker risks is to implement administrative controls. Examples of these risks include lone workers being injured, falling ill, or being attacked by a third-party.
What are the most effective administrative control solutions you can implement, though?
What Are the Potential Solutions?
One solution is to implement regular contact procedures where lone workers check-in periodically. As this is a manual process, it will still leave lone workers vulnerable for large portions of the working day. Another potential solution put forward by the interpretive guidelines for the new General Risk and Workplace Management regulations is to implement a buddy system. This is not practical in all situations, though.
The most effective solution is to issue your lone workers with personal safety devices. Such devices have features like panic buttons, timed check-in, and automated man-down inactivity detectors. These alarms trigger notifications that are sent to a central location where emergency procedures can be implemented. This includes locating the worker using GPS tracking features and, in some devices, communicating directly with the worker.
Many personal safety devices overcome another issue covered in the interpretive guidelines - having a communication system that is effective when used in remote locations. This is because it is possible to get personal safety devices that operate by satellite rather than mobile cellular networks giving a much wider coverage area.
What You Need to Know About Maintaining and Reviewing Control Measures
Another important part of the interpretive guidelines is that you have a duty to maintain and review the control measures you put in place. Following on from the section above, this is likely to include maintaining your personal safety devices and regularly reviewing how your organisation uses them.
The General Risk and Workplace Management regulations tighten up the rules that employers and the self-employed in New Zealand must follow to reduce workplace risk. By taking effective measures, such as issuing your lone workers with personal safety devices, you will ensure your organisation remains compliant.