As we head into cold and darker winter months, coupled with rising Covid-19 cases creating more scattered shifts, more employees will be exposed to increased risk whilst lone working in the darker hours.
Currently, over 3.2 million people work nightshifts each night across a range of industry sectors, including health and social care, security, logistics, transportation and hospitality. However, with days becoming shorter, all workers can be exposed to dangers whilst lone working in the dark.
Working at night or in the dark can be hazardous and dangerous for lone workers. With low visibility, lone workers will become more vulnerable to violence and abuse, as well as heightened risk when working around machinery and vehicles.
To help you feel safer whilst lone working at night, here are our top 5 tips for lone workers and managers.
1 – Plan ahead and be aware of your surroundings
Before lone working anywhere, in the daytime or darker hours, it’s important to plan ahead to maximise your safety.
One thing to consider before heading out is the weather. With the colder weather and darker nights creeping in, there is heightened risk of falling whilst walking outside which is something to consider.
If you are walking somewhere new, it’s important to avoid badly lit areas including streets and car parks. It’s important to pre-plan your route to incorporate well-lit areas. Using online mapping tools such as Google Maps allows you to understand the route you will take, whilst additional tools such as Street View will allow you to identify landmark buildings, so you know exactly where you are going.
If you are using public transport, find out the correct arrival and departure times to minimise the amount of time waiting alone at a bus stop or train platform.
2 – Equip yourself with the correct lone working tools
When working at night, being equipped with the right tools can enhance your safety. In dimly lit areas, always make sure that you wear a reflective jacket or arm bands, especially when working around machinery and vehicles. Carrying a flashlight can also assist in navigating poorly lit areas – although flashlights on camera phones are also useful.
Carrying tools that can help you alert others of your wellbeing is also essential. A simple whistle is a great deterrent if your safety is at risk. Carrying a personal safety device such as an SOS alarm, or a dedicated lone worker safety device is also recommended. Having a personal safety device at hand allows you to summon emergency assistance in the face of danger and also acts as a deterrent to keep you safer.
3 – Keep people informed of where you are
It’s important to let at least one other person know of your whereabouts. Letting a manager or colleague know that you are performing a hazardous task between a certain time frame is important to monitor your safety.
At Safe Shores, our products feature ‘Clock’ and ‘TAG’ (Timed Activity Guard) functionality to monitor your working day and any hazardous activities you may be performing at night or during the day. If you don’t clock off or close the TAG, a welfare alarm will be raised to ensure that you are ok.
If you don’t have a lone worker safety system in place, creating a buddy system where you check in on each other during the day can be beneficial. Adopting a GPS enabled device with location tracking is also useful for alerting chosen responders of your location in the case of an emergency.
4 – Driving safe at night whilst lone working
Driving to and from work can be risky, especially after a long shift, before a night shift or before an early start. If you choose to drive to work or between sites, ensure that you are fit enough to drive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every year around 100,000 police-reported crashes involve drowsy driving. These crashes resulted in more than 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries, highlighting the seriousness of driving whilst tired. Therefore, if you ever feel tired whilst driving, pull over into a rest stop or local service station to re-energise.
Whilst driving during your working hours, it’s also important to consider Winter and the impact the weather has on the roads. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to plan ahead – avoid country roads and un-gritted areas where possible to ensure that you minimise the risk of being involved in an accident.
Driving at night also poses other risks to lone workers. It’s obvious, but when driving at night, make sure you have enough fuel to cover your journey. Also, ensure that your lights are working correctly and that your doors are locked, especially at traffic lights. When leaving your car unattended, ensure that all personal belongings are out of sight, and always take work equipment such as laptops or phones out of the car.
5 – Updated policies, procedures and training
At this time of year, it is good timing to re-assess your current lone worker policies, procedures and training material to keep your team updated against the latest guidance and advice.
With the changing seasons and reduced daylight hours, lone workers will need to revisit some training to assess new risks that may impact them. For example, training surrounding how to diffuse a situation will be necessary for heightened exposure to violence and abuse during darker hours.
Providing your lone workers with new dedicated personal safety alarms and devices will also require updated training. Ensuring that a lone worker knows how to raise an alarm and use the system will be essential in ensuring their safety whilst working alone.
In order to identify new risks and hazards, you can conduct an updated risk assessment. Try out our free lone worker risk assessment toolkit to help you get started.