Approx. 8.5 million
lone working jobs or activities with a large proportion of lone work in Germany – and approx. 30 million in Europe
occupational accidents every year in Germany, of which 450 are fatal
is the maximum time companies are granted until their lone workers have to receive first aid measures
According to expert estimates one in five employees in Germany works alone, meaning they spend some or all of their time working out of sight and out of earshot of others. Lone workers bear a higher risk of occupational accidents or medical emergencies such as a heart attack going unnoticed. This can have significant consequences, right up to permanent health restrictions in especially serious cases.
Certain activities must not be carried out by lone workers as a matter of principle. Other activities may only be carried out by lone workers if the employer provides suitable technical or organizational precautions.
Lone workers at risk include those carrying out the following activities:
Activities with a risk of falling
Activities with a risk of falling can occur in almost any type of job. Even floors, stairs, ladders, platforms, or different terrains can quickly become trip hazards. In particular, working on construction sites and on building facades, working in logistics such as on ships or in container terminals as well as working in elevator shafts poses a significant risk of falling.
Handling hazardous substances
The work involved in chemical, physical or medical laboratories can also affect lone workers, who need special protection. Laboratory technicians also work with hazardous substances that present high safety risks such as the risk of fire, explosion, or suffocation. Construction workers can come into contact with materials containing asbestos and people working in printing and paper processing may be exposed to strong solvents.
Testing of large-scale technical plants
Lone work is required in many large-scale technical plants such as boiler plants, power plants, thermal waste treatment plants, or chemical plants. These have very high potential for explosion and fire damage. Activities involved in putting large-scale technical plants into operation such as pressure tests, leak tests, cleaning work, starting up auxiliary units and the large-scale plants as well as the test run presents a high risk for employees.
Agriculture and forestry
Forestry work, for example harvesting timber, is one of the most dangerous jobs due to the mostly isolated working environment. If the lone worker has an accident, it must be ensured that assistance can be provided quickly even in remote areas. Additional risks come up when using heavy machinery, fertilizers, or pesticides.
Working on track beds
Lone workers in the area of railway tracks are at particular risk, first and foremost because in some cases they are working while the tracks are in operation. Other potential hazards include moving rolling stock, overhead lines, and possible return currents in tracks.
Work involving the use of an open flame in areas where there is a risk of fire or explosion
Work involving the use of an open flame includes using welding, cutting, and soldering equipment as well as unfreezing and hot gluing work. Further danger is posed by metal parts heated to very high temperatures, released gases, leaking pipes, or dripping, glowing metal. Work involving the use of an open flame can be extremely hazardous due to the high temperatures that occur, which can result in fires and even explosions.
Working in explosive gas atmospheres
Workers in gas plants such as gas pressure regulating and metering stations, compressor plants, LPG plants for the public gas supply as well as gas plants in power plants are particularly at risk. Lone work in refineries or oil rigs represents another hazard due to possible gas explosions or deflagrations.
Employees of security firms are at risk while on foot and vehicle patrols. The same applies to cleaners, who often clean rooms on their own at night or at the weekend. Although there may be several workers in the building, in some cases they are out of sight and out of earshot of their colleagues. Employees in hospitals or psychiatric wards may also be working alone, for example on a night shift, and at risk as a result.
The most frequent occupational hazards:
Slips, trips, falls ("STF hazards")
Incorrect operation of tools or machinery
Incorrect stacking, lifting or carrying
Saving lives: why every minute can make the difference in an emergency
There are situations where lone workers cannot request assistance themselves: they may have fallen, be unconscious, have had a heart attack, or injured themselves on dangerous machinery – minutes or even seconds until first aid arrives can make the difference here. When a person suffers a cardiac arrest, their chances of survival drop a whole 7 to 10 percent each minute. The chances of a successful resuscitation are 75 percent after three minutes, and only 5 percent after ten minutes. It is therefore all the more important to ensure reliable protection and the fastest possible accident detection for lone workers.
DGUV: Responsibility rests with the employer
Under the German Occupational Safety and Health Act and the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions' DGUV Regulation 1, the employer is obliged to ensure the health and safety of their employees at their place of work. If a lone worker is exposed to an increased level of hazard at his or her place of work, employers must provide suitable technical or organizational personal protection measures over and above the general precautions. The most important instrument for doing this is the job hazard analysis. Regardless of whether this is conducted by the employer himself or authorized professionals, the legal responsibility always rests with the employer. The analysis provides information about what technical and organizational measures the employer should put in place. The preconditions under which a personal emergency signal system may be used are contingent on the job hazard analysis of affected employees' activity profiles.
The requirements for personal emergency signal systems, which use public telecommunication networks for data transfer, are specified in the German norm DIN VDE V 0825-11. By applying a lone worker protection solution certified according to this norm, employers can be sure to meet the highest possible safety standards for their lone workers.