With the coronavirus pandemic turning our lives upside down, people in every industry have been subjected to a lot of changes. Those who previously worked only in official workspaces have usually seen at least one stint of working at home if and when their job allowed it. In fact, some workers are now permanently working from home until further notice.
There are ups and downs to this practise, but what it means is that many people are now working alone. They might be enjoying the flexibility and the comfort of staying in their safe zone; however, there are certain dangers of such situations.
It’s not just about people who are working with an organization, but also those who are self-employed or in a profession that requires working alone. The most likely examples are truck drivers, midwives, or anyone who’s working alone in a building or are out on the road. Let’s now have a look at the various dangers that you should be aware of while working by yourself:
Risks for Mobile Workers
Workers who are travelling alone for their profession are also known as mobile lone workers. These might include:
- Nationwide salespeople
- Railway operatives
- Park rangers
- Bud drivers
- District nurses
While these professionals might not be working at home, they’re technically working, operating, and travelling alone for most of the day. This kind of lifestyle can expose them to a lot of threats and risks. Traveling, for instance, puts them at risk of slips, falls, trips, being stranded at a station, threats, abuse, or even assault.
At some point, a mobile lone worker might not feel well but still have to travel long distances. Even if they feel pretty well at the beginning of the day, there’s no predicting when illness, dizziness, or weakness might strike during the workday. Since they’d be on their own most of the time, there will be no one along to take care of them or call for help. They might be at the mercy of strangers and might be unfortunate enough to be near someone who could take advantage of them.
Moreover, if any lone worker (whether at home or not) goes missing, it might be several hours before anyone notices and informs the authorities. Even after they’re reported missing, tracking them down will be much more difficult than for someone who’s regularly going through a work routine with other people.
Risks for Lone Workers at a Fixed Location
Lone workers who just work at a specified place are also at risk in several ways. They might not move around much, but they’re also not near anyone who can help them out if necessary. Here are just a few examples of such workers:
- Factory workers or housing association staff that might work in a different building than their manager
- Workers in satellite offices who aren’t physically near their colleagues, such as lone petrol station attendants or any employee who has to close or open up the shop for the day.
Such workers might not be alone for the whole day, but even the isolated few hours could place them at some risk. They could slip, fall, or trip without anyone to help them up or get medical help. Threats, abuse, and assault from intruders, stalkers, etc. will also be risks to consider.
Workers One-On-One With Volatile People
Many lone workers are at a lot of risk of threats, abuse, and even attacks due to the very nature of their profession. Support staff, for instance, has to work with drug addicts, alcoholics, or sex offenders. They could also be required to help people with mental health issues. The potential violent tendencies and unpredictability of these patients might make it difficult to ascertain whether the worker is at risk or not. Not every member of a support staff can have security with them at all times, so they have to gamble on their safety at several points.
Other than physical safety, such workers also have to deal with risks to their own mental health at times. Many psychiatrists are working within their own clinics; at times, the pressure of working through other people’s major issues could take a toll on the professional’s own wellbeing.
Workers at Risk Through Activities
Several workers are also working alone even in crowded places. Their risk is more to do with the people and situations they come into contact with on a regular basis. In fact, the main purpose of their job is to deal with dangerous situations.
The most obvious examples of these are bailiffs, bouncers, security staff, and some members of housing association staff. These individuals are usually carrying out their roles in potentially dangerous situations. Even a bouncer at a nightclub is putting themselves at risk when they confront unwanted people trying to get in. They might be able to call for backup in some cases, but usually it’s just them responsible for making sure everyone else stays safe.
Workers at Risk Due to Locations and Situations
Certain lone workers may not have a dangerous job by definition, but they might be in danger due to certain unexpected situations. This includes every worker who has to enter another person’s home without security or company. When they’re in someone else’s space, they’re vulnerable and less likely to have easy access to weapons, safe places, or exits should the need arise.
The most common examples of such workers include meter readers, district nurses, cleaning staff, and midwives. They’re at risk of getting abused by the people occupying the home, getting threats, or running into a volatile situation. They often have no idea what kind of a home they’re entering, or what the atmosphere is like.
Take the case of a midwife who has to pay a home visit to one of her patients. Many expecting mothers are now also looking for doulas who can support them emotionally during the pregnancy and can also assist in the birth. Doulas may often be working alone with the whole family. When visiting a home, both doulas and midwives might have to deal with potentially dangerous situations such as domestic violence. The chances of such workers being prepared or equipped for such situations are quite low.
We should also consider the environmental risks faced by some lone workers. This could be due to the environment where they have to work, or the equipment they work with.
These risks will multiply when people work in isolated locations that are hard to reach. Park rangers, field scientists, lighthouse keepers, and utilities workers are a few examples of such workers. If these workers slip and/or hurt themselves, they might not be able to call for help right away. Even if they do, emergency services might have difficulty locating them quickly.
Other than getting injured, there’s a risk of getting stranded in a difficult location. For instance, a park ranger might get caught in a heavy snowstorm. Even if they reach their vehicle safely and radio for help, their phone may not have a strong enough signal to pinpoint their location.
Risks of Working at Home
A remote worker might be in the safety of their own home, but they’re still usually alone. Some might be with a spouse, roommate, or a whole family, but others could be living completely alone. With a pandemic situation, the risks get worse, as there aren’t even family members or friends coming over too often.
In such situations, there’s no one there if a worker slips and falls or injures themselves in any other way. They might not be able to call anyone at the moment, and it could be some time before someone notices their absence. Their workplace might see that they’re not responding, but they will probably wait a few hours before taking action.
There are other downsides to working from home, including the loss of motivation. Here are a few tips to keep your motivation up while working alone.
Working alone does have both pros and cons, but there are many risks to consider for such professions. Make sure you know the nuances before choosing a certain career, and see if you’re up for it both physically and mentally. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so take some precautions while travelling alone or going to a new location for work or anything else. Send a friend your location beforehand, check in with your social circle as often as possible, and have some form of self-defence on your person at all times. A bit of awareness and some preparation can go a long way.