Lone Workers and “Self Intervention”


We work with a lot of companies that have Stop Work Authority policies and that are concerned that their employees are not stepping up and intervening when they see another employee doing something that is unsafe.  So they ask us to help their employees develop the skills and the confidence to do this with our SafetyCompass®: Intervention training program.  Intervention is critical to maintaining a safe workplace where teams of employees are working together to accomplish results.  However, what about situations where work is being accomplished, not by teams but by individuals working in isolation…..the Lone Worker?  He or she doesn’t have anyone around to watch their back and intervene when they are engaging in unsafe actions, so what can be done to improve safety in these situations?  It requires “self intervention”.  When we train interventions skills we help our students understand that the critical variable is understanding why the person has made the decision to act in an unsafe way by understanding the person’s context.  This is also the critical variable with “self intervention”.  Everyone writing (me) or reading (you) this blog has at some point in their life been a lone worker.  Have you ever been driving down the road by yourself?  Have you ever been working on a project at home with no one around?  Now, have you ever found yourself speeding when you were driving alone or using a power tool on your home project without the proper PPE.  Most of us can answer “yes” to both of these questions.  In the moment when those actions occurred it probably made perfect sense to you to do what you were doing because of your context.  Perhaps you were speeding because everyone else was speeding and you wanted to “keep up”.  Maybe you didn’t wear your PPE because you didn’t have it readily available and what you were doing was only going to take a minute to finish and you fell victim to the “unit bias”, the psychological phenomenon that creates in us a desire to complete a project before moving on to another.  Had you stopped (mentally) and evaluated the context before engaging in those actions, you possibly would have recognized that they were both unsafe and the consequences so punitive that you would have made a different decision.  “Self Intervention” is the process of evaluating your own personal context, especially when you are alone, to determine the contextual factors that are currently driving your decision making while also evaluating the risk and an approach to risk mitigation prior to engaging in the activity.  It requires that you understand that we are all susceptible to cognitive biases such as the “unit bias”  and that we can all become “blind” to risk unless we stop, ask ourselves why we are doing what we are doing or about to do, evaluating the risk associated with that action and then making corrections to mitigate that risk.  When working alone we don’t have the luxury of having someone else watching out for us, so we have to consciously do that ourselves.  Obviously, as employers we have  the responsibility to engineer the workplace to protect our lone workers, but we also can’t put every barrier in place to mitigate every risk so we should equip our lone workers with the knowledge and skills to self intervene prior to engaging in risky activities.  We need to help them develop the self intervention habit.