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Safety measures to protect lone workers

Employers in Colorado have a legal obligation to provide a safe work environment for their employees, including those whose jobs require them to work alone. It is often more difficult or costly for employers to ensure the safety of lone workers because there are no other people around to help out or watch out.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued regulations regarding lone worker safety, but those regulations have been criticized as vague. OSHA's standard for lone workers in the shipping industry, for example, says each lone worker should be accounted for at regular intervals, but provides little specific guidance as to what that might mean.

The Washington Division of Occupational Safety and Health has published a document on the issue. Part of that state's Department of Labor & Industries, the agency recommends that employers establish clear emergency action plans, train lone workers for emergencies and require regular phone or radio contact between lone workers and their supervisors.

Employers should also implement methods to verify that a lone worker has returned to his or her station following the completion of a task and conduct risk assessments to determine whether certain jobs are safe for a person to perform alone. Organizations and businesses of all sizes should develop written policies and make use of available technology to account for lone workers.

One Fortune 500 company purchased 92 GPS emergency alert devices to protect workers at its 75 lone work sites. The company's safety director called the devices excellent insurance in case of a workplace accident. Individuals who are injured on the job may be entitled to certain benefits through Colorado's workers' compensation system. An attorney with experience in this area of the law may be able to help an injured worker in collecting the documents necessary to support a claim.

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