Over 20 years of research and application have provided indisputable evidence that behavior-based safety strategies, when applied properly, help workers engage in safe behaviors more frequently, thereby reducing incidents. The critical elements of traditional behavior-based safety (BBS) include (1) pinpointing important safe behaviors that need improving, (2) real-time peer-to-peer observation of employees engaging in work tasks requiring those safe behaviors, and (3) feedback and reinforcement to strengthen desired safe behaviors. These strategies work most effectively when workers are in close proximity and can observe each other frequently. When observations are done infrequently (e.g., once a month) behavior change is slower and the process is much less effective. So where does that leave the lone worker population?
Lone workers are defined as those who work in the field by themselves or in an enclosed environment without co-workers or supervisors nearby. With increases in automation and leaner staffing models in modern industrial settings, more and more workers fall into the category of lone worker. This trend is predicted to continue.
Lone worker situations are challenging because no one else is readily available to do observations and provide real-time feedback about safe and at-risk behaviors. Traditional BBS systems often fail the lone worker because they are either excluded from the process or are observed so infrequently that the impact is minimal. Furthermore, when lone workers are observed, it is unlikely they are "acting naturally" given they don't normally have other people working with them or observing them. The ideal observation of lone workers, or anyone, should be done when those being observed are behaving as they normally would when completing a job.