Working alone in the community has always been a common practice in the departments of healthcare, real estate, aged care and local councils. But it comes with high risks, and lone workers must be prepared to deal with many distressing situations that arise as a result of a medical emergency, violent behaviour or breach of safety.
These are also known as moments of duress – where threats, violence, constraints, or a similar action is used to force someone into doing something against their will or better judgement.
By implementing a clear lone worker safety policy and guidelines for their staff to follow, this can alleviate the stress and anxiety that some workers may feel when going to meet someone they don’t know in an unfamiliar location.
Here are 5 top tips to help lone workers be more vigilant:
Lone worker safety tip #1 – Research client and location
Conducting a Risk Assessment Evaluation before visiting a client or a new environment ensures that anyone working alone is aware of potential risks and these can be mitigated as much as possible prior to leaving the office.
This review involves not only a thorough understanding of the client, including any known history of aggression and emotional or psychological concerns, but also an assessment of the place at which you are meeting, which could have risks of animals, misused items or defensive tenants/family members.
Lone worker safety tip #2 – Have a Duress Alarm on your person at all times
A duress alarm is a small device worn on a lanyard or belt clip, which can signal for help in any emergency situation.
Some duress alarms have an automatic response and will send a text-based alert to an online portal, which can be managed by security or a health and safety team – but this doesn’t share specific details about the event nor assess the most accurate type of help needed, which can delay the time it takes for assistance to arrive.
With a MePACS duress alarm, anyone who is working alone, at night or for an extended period of time can feel safe and secure in knowing they have guaranteed fast assistance from our 24/7 emergency response team.
The MePACS Solo watch has the latest technology in duress alarms, with a discreet and intuitive design with ‘check-ins’ for the busy lone worker.
With just one tap of the watch face, a signal for help is sent directly to our response service and answered within two minutes. Our trained operators can efficiently assess the situation and triage the level of help required, contacting the most appropriate contact on your behalf. A user can check-in before they go into an appointment for a set period of time, and then if not cancelled this will trigger an alert for help to the MePACS Response Team.
The revolutionary duress alarm watch also features automatic fall detection, GPS locator and Geo-fencing technology to assist with contact tracing, which has become an effective tool to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
And as an additional benefit, the Solo watch is connected to an online portal to enable supervisors or a management team to review daily and monthly analytics.
Lone worker safety tip #3 – Check for Risks
Anyone who is working alone should also be aware of multiple risks they can encounter while visiting clients:
- Physical and verbal assault
- Damaged or broken objects
- Bystanders (unfamiliar people other than the client)
- Uneven surfaces or obstacles as trip hazards
- Existing conflict on premises (verbal or physical)
- Misused equipment or appliances
For environmental hazards, these should be reported to a manager or safety department, depending on the type of risk.
But for instances of physical and verbal assault, these are unfortunately experienced far too often for those who work alone in the community.
In a situation where a client, their relative or a member of the public becomes aggravated, lone workers must have a plan in place to reduce the threat to their personal safety.
Lone worker safety tip #4 – Learn how to de-escalate a distressing situation
Should a client become aggressive, remaining calm and neutral will help to de-escalate the situation.
It is recommended that you talk in a measured tone while maintaining eye contact and take quiet steps away from the client without turning your back. Increasing the distance between you will help ease tension and the potential of a physical altercation.
If you have a duress alarm on you, signalling for help will ensure an alert has been sent to emergency responders and help will be on the way.
If you have driven to the property, have your keys in your hand ready to unlock your car and try to leave the premises if possible. Make sure when you park you are not blocked in.
Lone worker safety tip #5 – Be cautious and professional
- Dress appropriately for the visit
- Be punctual
- Avoid unnecessary physical contact
- Be aware of exits
- Park in a well-lit area close to other people
- Hide valuables/identifying documents
- Have car keys, duress alarm and mobile phone on your person at all times