As an increasing number of health authorities move towards providing more and more care in the comfort of the patient’s home, so does the incidence of assaults and abuse towards these health care workers who are venturing into the community alone to provide the needed care.
According to a report presented to the House of Commons in June 2019, “health care workers working in-home care and community-care settings also face greater risks of violence because they are often working alone in these settings and lack training on how to de-escalate violence.”
While there are significant benefits to treating the patient in the comfort of their own home, there are also unique risks that health care and social service workers face when providing treatment away from the security of the hospital or clinic.
Helping those providing care in the community
“In our organization, we use SafetyLine for all of our on-the-road-people – so anybody in the field,” says Dawn MacKenzie, Clinical Director, Seasons Health Therapies. “They are using (the SafetyLine) app on their mobile phones and are checking into SafetyLine every hour…just to make sure they’re safe. “
Learn more about Seasons Health Therapies’ experience with SafetyLine, and visit our previous blog Are Health and Community Care workers classified as Lone Workers?
What can be done to help a lone worker stay safe?
Before developing a lone worker safety program, check the regulations in your area. Some Canadian jurisdictions have specific laws around working alone.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, there are many steps that can be taken to help ensure the safety of the lone worker:
- Avoid having a lone worker whenever possible, especially for jobs with a recognized risk.
- Assess the hazards of your workplace.
- Talk to workers about their work. Get their input about the work they do and possible solutions.
- Investigate incidents at your workplace, and learn from incidents in similar workplaces.
- Take corrective action to prevent or minimize the potential risks of working alone.
- Provide appropriate training and education to both the lone worker and the person tasked to respond if there is a concern.
- Report all situations, incidents or ‘near misses’ where being alone increased the severity of the situation. Analyze this information and make changes to a company policy where necessary.
- Establish a check-in procedure. Make sure that regular contact is kept with all workers. Establish ways to account for people (visually or verbally) while they are working.
- Schedule higher risk tasks to be done during normal business hours, or when another worker capable of helping in an emergency is present.
Support and protection
The final reason is key in this case because health care workers do not have the support and protections that they would in a traditional workplace environment.
“But SafetyLine Lone Worker can provide that needed support and protection,” says Heather Eastman, Director of Sales and Business Development at SafetyLine Lone Worker. “When a nurse or health care worker goes into a patient’s home, they’re vulnerable to several unique risks. SafetyLine keeps them connected to a monitor who can watch their back, while providing the worker with an accessible, easy-to-use way to call for urgent help should something happen.”
Canadian regulations for lone workers
The regulations and legislation for Canadian lone workers ranges across the country. Failing to protect your lone health care workers could result in increased WCB premiums, fines, legal action or even criminal charges for either an organization or an individual liable.
Easy tips for health care workers who work alone
In addition to implementing the support of SafetyLine and the assigned monitors, you can also:
- Make sure you protect your belongings and work gear by locking car doors and keeping any bags or valuables out of sight.
- Make sure your cell phone is accessible at all times in case your safety is threatened by a patient and you can use hit the panic button or shake for an emergency with the SafetyLine app.
- Using the SafetyLine app, make sure you check in so your managers and monitors know that you are working and where.
- If it’s your first time visiting a home, make sure you have clear directions so you aren’t wandering around an unfamiliar neighborhood.
- Be cautious around pets and animals on the patient’s property.
“SafetyLine will care for you while you’re caring for others,” Heather says. “It’s an affordable, easy-to-use means to provide the best care possible.”