As millions of Americans return to work following nationwide shutdowns, they’re likely to find that the workplaces they’re returning to aren’t the same as they were when they left them months ago. In addition to increased hygiene measures, many construction employers may be faced with the additional requirements of lone workers, workers who are cut off from coworkers due to social distancing measures and labor shortages. While the U.S. health and safety legislature has yet to officially incorporate lone working, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites having a working alone policy as a general duty requirement.
Failure to have this policy in place and take additional steps to protect the livelihood of your lone workers can lead to civil penalties, including fines for non-compliance. In this brief article, we’ll review a few of our top safety recommendations to safeguard your lone workers and best protect your business. If you are having difficulty meeting OSHA requirements, need assistance with an inspection, or need defense against a citation, a Texas OSHA defense attorney is here to help.
Develop, Implement, & Enforce a Working Alone Policy
Developing, implementing, and enforcing a working alone policy is a great way to ensure that your lone workers are educated on your company’s work alone rules and the potential hazards they may face as a result of working alone. For example, employees who work alone are at greater risk of danger from external hazards and unsafe working conditions. They are also at a greater risk for theft and violence from the public as they may be viewed as an easier target. They don’t have access to instant support from nearby workers when situations arise, such as accidents, sudden illness, or confrontation.
Ideally, your company’s lone working policy should act as an extension of your lone working risk assessment. It should include a definition of lone working; the risks identified with lone working broken down by job role, location, and worker type; the procedures you’ve put in place to mitigate risk; the responsibilities of management and the lone workers; and an outline of how and when your employees are expected to report hazards. To encourage buy-in from your lone workers, it may be beneficial to ask your lone workers to help you identify risks they face and what your company can do to make them feel safer on the job. The Texas OSHA defense lawyers at Cotney Construction Law have a wealth of experience dealing with OSHA inspections and can provide your company with the information necessary to ensure that you maintain compliance and avoid citations.
Be Prepared in the Event of an Emergency
Although it’s probably the last thing you want to be thinking about, you need to be prepared in the event that the safety of your lone workers is compromised. Your working alone policy must have an emergency communications plan in place. While there are many factors to consider when creating your emergency communications plan, the most important considerations revolve around whether or not emergency communication systems are able to function properly. Knowing where your lone workers are at any given time during the work day could be the difference between a minor incident and a fatal accident.
We recommend incorporating an automated lone-worker monitoring tool capable of location tracking, virtual check-ins, and fall detection. If for any reason, the lone worker does not check-in when they are supposed to, there should be a contact person who reaches out to make sure that they are okay. You may also find it beneficial to have a code to identify or confirm that help is needed. All of this information, as well as evacuation procedures and who to contact in the event of an emergency, should be included in the working alone policy. If a lone worker has filed a safety complaint with OSHA against you, our Texas OSHA defense attorneys can ensure that your business is guarded against further damage and that your actions following the complaint are not misconstrued as negative employment actions.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.