It is a lonely business being at work by yourself. There is always something to be said about working in pairs or groups from the standpoint of safety, but many times it is more effective to have one worker on site at a time, which means that one worker having self-imposed accountability to ensure his or her safety at all times when ther isn’t a peer or supervisor available to be an accountability partner.
One of the difficult parts of working alone is being able to objectively assess risks and take the steps necessary to stay out of harm’s way. After all, a worker who works alone has developed the skills, experience and trust to be able to work alone and not have supervisors or managers worry about safety.
However, it’s conceivable that these workers with the experience and skills to work alone may well have ways of working that they don’t think of the hazards tha are present because nothing has happened to them, and maybe they have done things a certain way for so long that they may have ignored or been ignorant of the hazards.
Part of self-management, which is discussed in an article by Jane Agnew, Cloyd Hyten and Bart Sevin in a recent issue of Professional Safety magazine, has to do wtih hazard assessment in an objective way, and addressing the hazards in such a way as to either eliminate the hazard altogether or to mitigate it with controls that will be consistent with the company’s standard operating procedures.
As was discussed earlier in the article, and in an earlier post, values matter when it comes to self-management and risk assessments. Having a customized plan for each worker based on personality and background – and not about the job he or she does – can be the foundation from which to determine a good self-management program and hazard assessment.
The Risk Assessment
The goal of the assessment is to look honestly and objectively at any and all hazards that an individual faces during his or her shift at his or her particular worksite (like the values mentioned earlier, this has to be individualized to the person, not the job). This assessment is to look over all the risks and categorize them on a spectrum, from the very-frequent, minor hazards or injuries to to the fatal or serious-injury and very-rare hazards and risks.
Each category should be addressed in its own way, and where risks can be minimized and hazards eliminated, those steps be done, and controls then be placed in the categories where risk or hazard can not be adequately reduced. Once the assessment is made, the next step is to make the case for the worker’s behaviors and actions to be consistent with the reduction or elimination fo those hazards, and that will likely mean addressing the individual worker’s values and showing him or her the value of these behaviors and actions that will make them safe. Without a buy-in a the values level, very little effective change will be made.
What you have to understand with those who work alone is that what might work within a team to promote safety protocols and procedures may not work for the solo flyers in your organization. Because there is no second or third person to provide accountability to the lone worker, or island laborer, the impetus falls on the worker to manage his or her own safety. But that means not making it complex- the worker can’t rely on anyone else to remember everything in the procedure while he or she focuses on doing the work.
When there is no oversight, the island laborer will need a self-maanagement plan and process that is easy to follow, so whatever protocols ae available must be distilled into bite-size pieces that the worker can easily take to mind and apply without having to focus much attention away from the work that is hazardous on its own.
In the last post of this seires, we’ll look into ways to make this self-management process more easily and routinely applied by lone workers, and describe some best practices for implementing these self-management processes.