A worker answering a phone call wearing equipment on a construction job site holding a clipboard.

Lone Worker Monitoring: Everything You Need To Know

Have you ever thought about the invisible challenges faced by employees who work alone?  June is National Safety Month, a time aimed at reducing preventable injuries and deaths through education and increased safety awareness. 

In this blog we’ll break down what lone worker monitoring is, how it works, who benefits, and why lone worker safety should be a top priority for every organization. 

What is a lone worker?

When you hear the term “lone worker,” you might picture a construction worker on a remote job site. But, it’s estimated that there are 53 million lone workers in Canada, the United States and Europe combined, according to a recent report by Berg Insight. That’s about 15 percent of the overall workforce.

Simply put, a lone worker is anyone who performs their job in isolation from other employees and without direct supervision. This can happen in many contexts, whether they’re working indoors, outdoors, on the road, or in a remote location. 

Lone workers can be found in a diverse range of industries from home healthcare to mining and utilities. The common thread is that they often work alone continuously or at various times throughout their workday, sometimes in potentially volatile situations.

What types of jobs require lone worker monitoring?

There are many types of jobs that involve working alone or in isolation. Lone worker monitoring is crucial for many types of jobs that engage in high risk activities. Here are some examples: 

  • Working in confined spaces (e.g., elevators, silos, pipelines, tunnels, tanks) 
  • Working at heights (e.g., roofing, window cleaning, painting, construction)
  • Providing services or care in people’s homes (e.g., home care, social work, home services). 
  • Working with heat or electricity (e.g., anything involving risk of fire, electrocution or explosion) 
  • Handling cash (e.g., pharmacy, gas station, retail, convenience store).
  • Working with heavy machinery or hazardous equipment (e.g, logging, mining, oil and gas). 
  • Working with hazardous products or materials (e.g., Asbestos, large volume of chemicals, compressed gas)
  • Working in Isolated areas 
  • Working or traveling late at night 
  • Working in extremely cold or hot temperatures

The most common industries to find lone workers include:

  • Utilities 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Oil and Gas 
  • Homecare + Healthcare 
  • Home Services + HVAC
  • Housing 
  • Government/Municipalities 
  • Forestry + Agriculture

Understanding lone worker legislation in Canada

There isn’t one single law for lone worker monitoring in Canada. Several provinces have enacted specific provisions regulating lone workers. While the regulations vary, they generally require employers to:

  1. Conduct a hazard assessment 
  2.  Take measures to either eliminate the hazards or minimize the associated risks.

 Here are the provinces and territories in Canada that currently have specific lone worker regulations. Click the hyperlink for more info about the individual regulations. 

Although Ontario, Nova Scotia, and the Yukon do not have laws that directly pertain to lone work monitoring, there are still regulations that indirectly affect lone workers. For example, in certain hazardous working situations there may be a specific legal number of workers required. You can also check the Occupational health and safety (OH&S) legislation to understand the general requirements for employers in your jurisdiction if there are no lone worker laws. 

On a federal level, the Criminal Code was amended in 2004 to hold organizations and even individuals criminally liable if they fail to take reasonable precautions to ensure employee safety.

How do you monitor lone workers?

One of the most common measures taken to minimize the risks associated with working alone is establishing an effective communication system

Typically this must be a radio, phone, or some other form of electronic communication like a mobile app. Employers must implement procedures for checking-in with lone workers regularly. This may include scheduled check-ins at designated intervals or having a designated contact available for workers to reach out to if needed.

There is also a growing market of wearable devices that can monitor fatigue, detect falls, send SOS alerts, and more. In addition to a reliable communication system, monitoring devices can be used in high-risk situations to add an extra layer of protection. However some of the biggest barriers to adoption currently include cost, customization, functionality, and user training. 

What is a safety check-in procedure? 

Check-in systems can be automated or manual, depending on the nature of the work and the level of risk involved. Regardless of the method, the goal is the same: to ensure that lone workers are safe and accounted for.

Designated Contact:
Assign a designated contact person (plus back up), that lone workers will communicate with during their shift. This contact should be readily available to respond to any missed check-ins or emergencies. 

Initial Check-in:
At the start of the scheduled workday, staff typically check-in and provide the designated contact with the following details: 

  • Name + contact info 
  • Destination address 
  • Estimated time of arrival 
  • Return time/date 
  • Mode of travel (e.g., car, public transit)
  • Any alternate plans or routes in case of unexpected events (e.g., adverse weather conditions, road closures, etc.)

Check-in Intervals: 
Throughout the shift, the lone worker regularly checks in with the designated contact at predetermined intervals by making a phone call, sending a text message, or using a radio to confirm their safety and report any concerns. This could be hourly, every few hours, or as determined by the specific job requirements and risk assessment.

Emergency Protocol: 
If a lone worker misses a scheduled check-in within a certain time (e.g.,  minutes after check-in has passed), there should be a clear plan in place. The designated contact should know when and how to activate this procedure. Similarly, if the worker reports an emergency or cannot be contacted at all, there also needs to be an escalation procedure to verify their safety. 

End-of-Shift Check-Out:
At the end of their shift or upon completion of their work assignment, the lone worker does a final check-in with the designated contact to confirm that they have concluded work safely and are leaving the job site. 

For most lone workers, the telephone will be the main source of contact. However, there are many lone worker apps available such as StaySafe and SafetyAware (Aware360) that can automate check-ins and reminders. 

How to create an effective lone worker safety plan 

Conduct a hazard assessment

This assessment should be specific to your organization, the work environment and the task performed by lone workers. Some factors you may consider include:

  • length of time + what time of day the person will be alone?
  • Forms of communication available + will the communication system work properly in all situations? 
  • Location of work + is transportation necessary to get there? 
  • Nature of work + are there high risk activities involved? 
  • Characteristics of individual lone workers + do they have adequate levels of training? 

Develop a lone worker policy

Just like all of your company policies, your lone worker policy should be a formal written document. The language and layout of your policy document should be straightforward and simple for employees to understand. This policy should detail:

  • The responsibilities of both the employer and the lone worker.
  • Procedures for reporting incidents and hazards.
  • Guidelines for emergency situations.
  • Safety check-in procedures and communication protocols.

This document will be ever-evolving. Update it as needed to reflect any big changes to lone worker activities, job sites, training, and new risk assessment findings.

Group of employees receiving forklift safety training in warehouse.

Define SOPs and provide training

In addition to your lone worker policy, you’ll want a formal document outlining the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for lone workers. Think of it as a ‘how to’ documents that covers the following:

  • Pre-work preparation + post-work procedures 
  • Task-specific safety procedures 
  • Recognizing and reporting potential hazards 
  • Using the lone worker communication system effectively 
  • Emergency response procedures

Ensure all lone workers receive thorough training on these SOPs. Additionally, it’s important to define SOPs and develop specific training for the designated contact person(s) responsible for safety check-ins.

Implement 24/7 lone-work monitoring 

Many lone-workers don’t abide by a traditional 9-5 schedule. They often work during nights, weekends and holidays, making them especially vulnerable due to reduced visibility and limited access to immediate assistance. 24/7 monitoring ensures that no matter when or where they are working, support and emergency response are always available. 

Outsourcing lone worker monitoring to a professional answering service call centre or answering service offers numerous benefits: 

Enhanced safety:
Whether it’s a true emergency or a routine check-in, lone workers receive an immediate response from a real person, ready to assist. 

Expertise + technology:
They provide a team of trained, experienced monitors, that can use advanced call center technology to efficiently handle emergencies.

Reduced administrative burden:
An answering service streamlines check-ins, ensuring consistent and reliable monitoring, regardless of staff availability.

Scalability + flexibility:
Outsourced monitoring can easily adapt to business growth or staffing changes with customizable plans tailored to your needs. 

Compliance + accountability:
An answering service can provide you with detailed call logs of check-ins, incidents, and actions taken, which can help with analyzing trends and informing workplace safety audits. 


At the end of the day, Lone worker monitoring is about so much more than compliance. It’s about caring for the well-being of those who work tirelessly behind the scenes. If you enjoyed this blog, you can find more resources to make your workplace safer this June, and all year long at: https://www.nsc.org/