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Environmental Oil & Gas Security & Defence Utilities & Renewables

January 25, 2022

Lone worker safety: a snapshot of operations in North America

In its most basic term, lone workers are defined as employees who perform an activity in isolation from other workers, without close or direct supervision. Working in numerous industries, there are an estimated 53 million lone workers across the globe, with almost half (25 million) operating within North America.

In addition to safety concerns faced by lone workers simply as a result of being alone, many also work in remote areas. Communication plans and tracking can reduce the chance of accidents when lone working and ensure swift response times in the case of an emergency. While there are regulatory and contractual standards in place for lone workers, procedures surrounding lone worker safety are very much evolving.

With rapidly changing needs and increasingly challenging environments, it’s imperative organisations continually evaluate their strategies, hardware and software to ensure they are able to maintain worker safety and operational efficiency.

To better understand how lone workers in North America currently remain safe and connected when out of cellular range, Ground Control in partnership with TracPlus, surveyed almost 250 lone workers and individuals responsible for the safety and supervision of lone workers.

Lone worker operations in North America today

How often do lone workers travel out of mobile phone range?

Graph illustrating how often lone workers within different industries travel out of mobile phone range
Lone workers and lone worker supervisors were asked to indicate on a scale from 0 – 100, whether they ever travelled out of mobile phone range. As can be seen in the above graph, on average, lone workers sometimes travel out of mobile phone range. It’s also worth noting that lone workers actually responded with a lower than average figure than those responsible for them (52 vs 58).

Our data also indicates that 10% of respondents are quite often out of mobile phone range, as these reported a figure of 75 or above.

When analysing the data grouped by industry, recipients from the Mining, Forestry and Utilities sectors provided the highest average scores, and those within Transport & Cargo, the lowest. This indicates that those working within Mining, Forestry and Utilities, are more likely to travel out of mobile phone range than those in the Transport & Cargo sector.


How many lone workers have experienced the following situations?

Graph to illustrate how often lone workers experience various situations at work
Results show over 60% of lone workers surveyed have been in a situation where they have needed to contact someone and were unable to, due to lack of mobile phone reception. Comparatively, for those within the Mining and Renewables industries, this figure rose to 88% and 73% respectively.

Further, almost one fifth (19%) of those surveyed reported having an accident, and struggling to get help. Encouragingly, none of the lone workers from the Forestry sector indicated having an accident when lone working, but this increased to over 40% within the Oil and Gas industry. Subsequently, workers within Oil and Gas were also most likely to report having felt unsafe (54%); 10% above the overall average.

How frequently do those responsible for lone workers check in with them?

Graph to illustrate how often those responsible for lone workers check in with them, split by industry
Overall 28% of respondents reported daily check-ins with their lone workers, 39% weekly and 45% as needed on a demand basis. Just 17% confirmed having a tracking system which allows lone workers to check in themselves, and over 10% disclosed checking in multiple times per day.

Interestingly, those within the Forestry sector were most likely to report more frequent check-ins – 75% indicating as needed and 50% every day. Additionally, 50% of those within Forestry also confirmed having a tracking system whereby their workers could check themselves in. This is particularly significant, considering the overall average reported was just 17%. In contrast, none of the respondents within the Transport & Cargo nor Utilities industries, indicated having a tracking system lone workers could use. Given the operational efficiency benefits these types of systems can deliver, this is quite surprising.


How robust are current lone worker communication strategies?

Graph to illustrate which industries are best able to deal with comms and tracking when their lone workers are out of cell phone range
As illustrated above, only 49% of respondents reported having the ability to both send and receive messages while lone workers were out of mobile phone range. This figure remained the same when recipients were asked whether they had a procedure which could always be followed (even if there had been an accident or equipment failure), that enabled messages to be sent and received without mobile phone reception. Interestingly for those within the Mining industry, despite 67% reporting the ability to send and receive messages while out of mobile range, just 33% confirmed the ability to do this under all circumstances, for example in the event of an accident or equipment failure.

Additionally, less than one third (32%) of respondents overall confirmed they were able to track the location of a lone worker out of mobile phone range. This fell to just 8% in the Forestry industry.

Finally, 8% of respondents overall and 15% of those within the Transport & Cargo and Forestry sectors, indicated that they were unable to support any of these communication scenarios.

In summary, although our research represents just a snapshot of lone worker operations in North America, it does highlight that organisations still have some way to go in terms of safeguarding lone workers; a sentiment which holds true across all surveyed industries.

The future of lone worker safety: The RockSTAR

Communication plans and tracking are imperative to lone worker safety and increasing operational efficiency. With this in mind, it would be remiss of us to not talk about the RockSTAR device by Rock Seven (now trading as Ground Control). This powerful, handheld device allows the user to send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a clear view of the sky. The unit is waterproof, ruggedized, and built to withstand the most challenging environments. And perhaps most importantly, the RockSTAR is able to transmit every minute with 15-second updates, ensuring teams know the whereabouts and safety of their lone workers at all times.

What is TracPlus?

TracPlus is a trusted real-time tracking and communication platform of first responders, government agencies, militaries, and other critical operators around the world. It has been developed to deliver situational awareness to first responders, irrespective of who owns the asset, what the asset is, who provides the tracking, or what the platform or signal type is – be it radio, cellular or satellite.

Get in touch

Ground Control and TracPlus have worked in partnership for over eight years, developing essential, cost-effective solutions for organisations and their remote field workers all over the world.

If you’d like to get in touch with our expert team, simply complete our online form, or you can email or phone us on +1.805.783.4600 (USA) or +44 (0) 1452 751940 (UK).