Tips for Employees who work Independently

Author: Bob Lapidus, CSP, CSMS

Most of us go through life thinking others expect us to be independent, able to accomplish all things on our own. In a way, that is kind of scary and even irrational. The world is a complex place. Each organization is complicated and many of our tasks are intricate. Unless someone is a one-person artisan, creating his or her own specialty item, most of us work with others to get our tasks completed.

Working safely is one such activity that needs cooperative help. Many things we do are inherently unsafe when we do them alone. Think about how the following activities would be unsafe if done completely alone:

1. Climbing on extension ladders

2. Entering permit-required confined spaces

3. Working in excavations

4. Carrying or lifting heavy, awkward or cumbersome objects

5. Driving extra-long distances

6. Long hours of boring work

Having another person to help provides someone to assist, trade off tasks, react immediately in the event of an emergency, and even provide additional guidance.

There are organizations where employees are expected to work autonomously, without anyone else around, even though some tasks are hazardous. To handle this kind of situation:

    1. Determine if one person can do the work safely or if additional assistance is needed.

    2. Ascertain if there should be at least two people to ensure the work is done safely.

    3. Provide one or two reliable communication systems for employees who work alone in the event a problem occurs.

    4. Make sure employees have with them complete first-aid kits with the kind of supplies needed to treat the types of injuries they could sustain while doing the work.

    5. Comply with government safety standards that require more than one employee doing a specific task.

    6. Encourage employees to provide feedback to management on the safety of the work being performed.

Once actual tasks have been assigned the correct number of employees to do the work safely, take one additional important step: Tell your employees to think conscientiously about the work they are doing. Urge them to ask for help when they think there is any possibility that doing the task alone could lead to a problem. This action on the part of individual employees requires people to be cool. They need to know themselves, their own capabilities, when a situation is getting out of hand, and especially they need to know that asking for help is the smart thing to do.

Any belittling remarks on the part of other employees need to be eliminated immediately. Employees who put down other employees for getting help need to be counselled and directed to stop their ridicule.

Everyone in the organization must be aligned with the organization’s main safety goal of making correct safety performance matter on a moment to moment basis.

For More Information:
To become part of discussions on topics like the one above, go to www.safetycenter.org to obtain information about Safety Center’s Safety Management Specialist Certificate.

After completing this nine-day program, graduates may take the exam to achieve the Certified Safety Management Specialist (CSMS) designation. Once this certification is achieved, successful candidates keep it for the rest of their lives without any additional requirements or fees.