Louise Ward will be giving our opening address on the 2nd October. Here she shares some of her thoughts on the future of lone working and the challenges for Safety Practitioners.

Louise Ward

Some people say that we are living through the 4th industrial revolution, and there is certainly no doubt that the pace of change is greater now than ever before.  The real challenge is that technology is driving a more flexible approach to work, and the workplace is becoming less defined.  This poses some real challenges for us as health and safety practitioners.  The traditional tools that we have used, such as systems, control, observation and supervision won’t work effectively for a population of distributed, independent and lone workers

If we are going to assure health and safety for this new modern workforce we are going to need new approaches.

The move towards more independent working will require individuals to take greater responsibility for their own health, safety and wellbeing.  There will still be duties on employers, clients and those procuring services, but I think that these will increasingly be discharged by assuring that individual workers have the skills and knowledge to appropriately manage health, safety and wellbeing wherever they might be working.

So our focus as practitioners needs to move towards coaching and experiential learning to build not just knowledge, but the understanding and competence that people will need to deal with health and safety issues, conflict and violence and aggression.  There is also a need to expedite the development and application of technology led solutions for active risk management at the point of work.

But most of all we need to think about how we build this network of remote workers into a community.  Human Beings are inherently social, and lone workers miss out on the collaboration, social interaction and peer support that site based workers enjoy.  This can result in a feeling of isolation, and adversely affect their physical and mental health.  Technology has the potential to make a real difference here too if it comes with suitable investment in developing both the systems and the competence of the users.

The question we should be asking ourselves as practitioners is whether we have the skills, knowledge and resources required to meet this new challenge.

If you want to find out more come along to the Lone Worker Safety Expo conference and exhibition on 2nd October. Tickets are still available.