Lone Worker Safety – Training is Key

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Lone Worker Safety


Workplace Violence Prevention

 By Suzy Loughlin, Esq., CAO and Co-founder Firestorm

Summary Article: Alberta to investigate death of Camrose caregiver

Related: St. Helens, Oregon Mental health worker stabbed to death

Lone workers have no choice but to be trained to both assess risk on their own, as well as be their own first responder.

This type of training should be given to every employee—even for those who work with others, as you never know when circumstances will change, placing you in a lone position with another—whether a patient, customer, client, or co-worker.

The facts leading up to this incident are not yet clear, and over time, I’m sure we will learn more. My comments are not specific to this event, but rather will be directed toward any scenario where one works alone with a patient/customer/client.

Firestorm’s PREDICT. PLAN. PERFORM.® methodology should be applied for lone worker safety:

PREDICT:  Questions to ask:

  • What can go wrong in the environment you will be in?
  • Are there risks of violence?
  • Are there safety hazards?
  • Are there communication challenges?
  • Are there threats posed by natural disasters—flood, tornado, hurricane, ice storms?

Awareness of your surroundings is a critical factor in Preparation.

From Firestorm Principal and Owner of Senior Helpers, one of the most trusted and distinguished providers of in-home senior care services in the nation –  Pam Hodgson:

“I train on this subject – Lone Worker Safety – endlessly.  Having your mind in your job and remaining aware of your surroundings and what is going on is a key to doing your job well, and protecting the safety of all involved.”


“In a Caregiver situation where a relative or loved one is the primary Caregiver, they often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical and spiritual health. The demands on a caregiver’s body, mind, and emotions can easily seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue and hopelessness – and ultimately, burnout. Without proper training and support, these factors can put the Caregiver at risk.”

PLAN: Once the threats and risks are identified, plans need to be created to either prevent those threats from occurring, or if not

A 2009 fire at a group home in Wells, N.Y., that killed four disabled residents revealed shortcomings in staff training and safety standards possible, mitigate the outcome.

Violence—the threat at issue in the cited article, is typically preceded by warning signs.

In order to understand what the warning signs may be, a patient/client ‘history’ must be obtained.

That ‘history’ must then be evaluated and assessed from a risk perspective.

In conjunction with the history, specific warning signs for that individual must be identified and employees need to be trained on how to react and respond to them.

There needs to be a reporting capability in place.  Communication plans are vital.

  • How will you notify another that you are in need of assistance?
  • Is there a panic button?
  • Will you use your cell phone?

You will need to convey your distress immediately.

PERFORM:  Between the time you detect a problem and the time help arrives, you may need to act as your own first responder. You may need to employ protective techniques, i.e. de-escalation or self-defense.

Violence is a threat in every workplace. It can be mitigated and prevented.

Employees need training—training on what can go wrong and how to deal with it. That training will enable one to draw conclusions such as “is it ok to send a lone worker into a specific environment?”

In virtually every episode of workplace violence, there are warning signs. The ‘Monday-morning quarter-backing’ reveals them every time.

If you are a lone worker, and value your safety, become your own first responder. PREDICT. PLAN. PERFORM.  Additionally, please let your voice be heard via Firestorm’s Workplace Violence Group on LinkedIN.
In the UK, visit the Lone Worker Safety Expo website for information on their upcoming 2012 Conference at the Olympia Conference Center in London, November 27.



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