What is a Lone or Remote Worker?

What is a Lone or Remote worker?

A remote worker, lone worker, Isolated worker, and field worker are all terms used to describe an employee who works alone. Often, these workers suffer from extra risks because of this and need extra safety measures as well.

An article by OHS Reps goes into detail about the risk a remote worker may face, stating that:

“People who work alone could be at increased risk through using machinery or handling chemicals without help or being placed under stress through social isolation. But, in legal terms, there is no simple answer which applies in all circumstances.”

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The Legal Requirements for a Remote Worker

There is no law that prevents employees from working alone, in many circumstances it is safe to do so. But lone working employees need the same level of safety as their non-lone working colleagues. Being a remote worker doesn’t mean you should compromise on your personal safety. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) states that:

“An employer shall provide and maintain so far as is reasonably practicable for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.” [Section 21(1)]
What is reasonably practicable? Legally this is a vague term. According to Safe Work Australia in this context, reasonably practicable means:
That which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety, considering and weighing up all relevant matters including:
  1. The likelihood of the hazard or risk concerned occurring
  2. The degree of harm that might result from the hazard or risk
  3. What the person concerned knows, or ought to reasonably know, about the hazard or risk, and ways of eliminating or minimising the risk
  4. The availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, the cost associated with the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.
A council worker who is working alone sits in his small green gardening buggy wearing a high-visibility vest and a black beany, he's holding his remote worker app in his hand. 2nd picture to the right of that is a real estate agent smiling as she has just returned from her morning run, her lone worker app is visible on the iPhone screen that is attached to her left arm. 3rd picture below is of a factory worker who is smiling inside the factory he works in, he works alone. 4th picture to the right of the factory worker is a healthcare worker during a home visit where she works alone safely with the WSG lone worker app on the table in front of her if she needs it.

Who Is At Risk?

The list of professions with lone or remote workers might surprise you. It pays to consider the fact that some employees may only be lone workers for a small part of their time. Many employees work in an office with others for most of the day, but at times may go off-site to perform work-related duties. For example, when a real estate agent or property manager hosts an open viewing or goes to a routine inspection. While there may be other people around, the real estate agent is a remote worker as they are to perform these duties without the help of a colleague or direct supervision from superiors.
Other at-risk professions include (but are not limited to):

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Do You Employ a Lone or Remote Worker?

Now that you are familiar with the common definitions, do you employ any lone or remote workers? If you do, are you doing everything that is “reasonably practicable” to keep them safe? Safety is about people and making sure that everyone goes home safely to their loved ones at the end of the day. If you can do more to ensure this you are not only legally but morally obliged to do it.
A lone worker safety system like the WSG app is a great place to start. It’s low cost, helps with your compliance of duty of care and it helps to increase the safety of your employees. WSG helps give everyone the kind of peace of mind you can’t put a price on. If you are looking at hiring a remote working team there are some websites that provide useful information on how to do so effectively, like Time Doctor. Just make sure that you take their safety into consideration as well as the potential benefits to your business.
Do you employ a lone or remote worker? Icons with different professions showing who is a lone or remote worker

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