“At the recent Operations Safety Conference, one of the items that came up as a future discussion topic was working alone. Although the article below was written with farm clients in mind, it is based on Stop, Think and Act, a program most of us are familiar with. I think you will agree that many of the tips are applicable to drivers, yard staff or anyone else who works alone on a regular basis.” Daphne
This article is reproduced with permission of WSPS.One is the loneliest number
Working alone is one of the leading causes of stress in agriculture workplaces. While in some instances it can’t be entirely eliminated, it can be dealt with productively.
We know that working alone can be physically dangerous; from sustaining an injury in an isolated location or succumbing to a sudden illness with no one being aware or close enough to help in a timely manner.
But the negative effects of working alone run much deeper than the more obvious physical consequences. Working alone has psychosocial ramifications that are not as easy to identify as a broken bone or sprained back, but can be just as harmful. While the negative effects of working alone apply to virtually all workplace categories, agriculture is particularly susceptible. Be it long hours in a tractor during harvest, fence mending far from co‑workers or doing a complicated repair in a confined space, working alone is often just part of the job.
And while we focus so much on dealing with preventing the physical injuries that can occur when we work alone, the other negative affects get much less attention.
Long hours alone can play havoc with one’s mental state. For those whose livelihood depends on successful harvests and other intangibles, these extended times alone are fertile ground for problems and concerns to take hold, become amplified in our minds and culminate in extreme stress.
Sadly, this stress can affect our focus on the jobs at hand. As we know all too well, even a momentary lapse in concentration can quickly lead to physical injury or worse.
A method to deal with stress: Stop. Think. Act.
Before you, or a worker that reports to you is about to embark on working alone, take a moment to assess the situation.
Is there anything to cause you to believe that they may not do well working alone, especially for an extended period of time? Have they been working alone for consecutive work shifts in a stressful environment, such as a confined space? Are you aware of any personal challenges that they may be dealing with which could make them particularly vulnerable?
Identify any actions that could help alleviate the potential for stress. If they have been working alone for consecutive shifts in a confined space, rotate their work schedule with someone else. Check in with them on how they are feeling about their work on their own. This can be done without crossing any personal boundaries.
And all of the above also goes for yourself. Do a self‑evaluation and consider the possibility of any adverse effects on yourself due to working alone. There may be options you have not considered that could alleviate your own stress. Remind yourself that stress is not only damaging to our health, but causes stress for those around us including our co‑workers and families.
By recognizing stress and working alone as very real hazards, we can take corrective actions that will lead to more positive work experiences.