New Year’s resolutions are rarely an individual ffair. At least, if you really want your resolutions to be successful.

No matter how committed you might be to losing weight or completing that Boston Marathon, very few people ever see through their resolutions without getting a partner on board to at least be an accouuntability partner.

You may be the only one going to the gym three or four days a week or running those 40 miles a week, but if you don’t have someone who holds you accountable, then even the most disciplined of us will not be able to stick with what we know we should do.

Think about this when it comes to your lone workers in the field. You can sell them on the greatest safety protocols this side of sliced bread or the back brace, but even the most enthusiastic worker won’t continue to buy into what your’e selling without someone to give support and accountability.

Self-Management… Isn’t Really

Judy Agnew, Cloyd Hyten and Bart Sevin wrote about the challenges of safety among lone workers, those who are in the field or on a worksite by themselves, expecting to do a job without immediate supervision or management in the vicinity. The article about promoting self-management in safety appeared in a recent issue of Professional Safety magazine, and I have broken down the article through a series of posts, that will end with this one.

The main point of self-management is that it is necessary to trust that your lone workers, those who work on an island by themselves, are held to account for the way they work. Self-management involves honest and objective assessments of each individual worker, his or her values and evaluating the specific risks and hazards the worker encounters while on the job.

Once that is covered, however, and the lone worker has a simplified process of self-management in mind, tkat lone worker will need support and accountability back at the home office. This may take the form of regular meetings with a supervisor to go over the process and ensure everything is being followed, or some positive peer influence by other lone workers who have their own self-management processes (as was covered earlier, there should not be a one-size-fits-all plan for every worker who has the same job; everyone has unique personalities, values and character, and the self-management plan should be catered to meet each individual need).

Having a mentorship or coaching approach might be one way to go, where lone workers aren’t negatively impacted by honestly reporting any and all at-risk actions or behaviors, and instead are encouraged to be open about all of their work and there be encouragement and inncentive to get workers to change their at-risk behaviors. If a supervisor or manager decides to discipline everyone who steps out of line and admits it, then those workers will not report their at-risk behaviors and will be ineffective in the process and uncooperative until an incident occurs.

Helping Lone Workers Help Themselves

There are several best practices available to those who wish to implement effective self-management programs to their lone-worker workforce, all in some way related to a coaching or mentoring relationship to hold positive accountability to workers to maintain safety while on the job. These steps are summarized here:

  • Connect self-management with the worker’s value system and desired life quality, to get them to understand self-management helps them maintain that quality of life now and into the future.
  • Be data-driven in your company, analyzing information to find the “soft spots” in safety and work with the lone workers to develop behaviors that will help them eliminate or mitigate those hazards.
  • Help lone workers know their human frailties in relation to their job, and work with tem to develop customized (and simple to follow) self-management plans that will allow them to de-emphasize their weaknesses and emphasize their strengths to maintain safety.
  • Provide social support through coaching and mentoring to encourage honesty and openness in reporting their behaviors, and positively reinforce good safety and guide lone workers away from their at-risk behaviors and actions.