How can we support your lone workers and ensure you have a safe lone worker policy?
As a vet practice, there are often times you may have employees working alone. This could be an employee travelling to treat animals alone during an emergency, or this could be an employee working alone overnight at a practice with sick animals. Whatever the reason, all vet practices need to have a safe and well-prepared lone-worker policy that supports and protects their employees and their practice.
The dangers of vets lone working
When vets are working alone, there can be additional risks to both them and the animals they are treating. Common risk factors for lone working vets include fatigue, stress, and physical injury. Vets who are suffering from fatigue are more likely to make mistakes as tiredness can lead to errors of judgement, such as missing key information during a diagnosis or misjudging the risk of injury when handling large animals. Fatigue also poses a specific risk to vets who are travelling to visit animals, as high levels of fatigue impact road safety and driving awareness. In addition, there is also the risk of cross-contamination, as vets often move between different animal species and facilities.
Stress can be caused by workload, shift patterns, or external factors such as personal concerns. Stress can lead to burnout, which can make a vet more susceptible to accidents and injury. When vets regularly have to operate as lone workers, signs of stress can be missed, which increases the risk of it leading to other dangers.
Physical injury is a real concern for many vets, even when working with others. However, the risk of physical injury is significantly increased when working alone and away from the vet practice. This is due to the increased need for self-reliance and the potential for less-than-ideal control options for large animals. For example, when treating horses in an owner’s yard, there may not be the option to put the horse in cross ties, a stock stall, or similar. This increases the risk of the horse being able to injure the vet.
The highest risk time is during emergency out-of-hours visits. Emergency calls are often late at night, which increases the risk of the vet suffering from fatigue, while also increasing the risk of driving due to nighttime road conditions. The vet is also more likely to be travelling to the animal’s location, which carries its own risks.
To ensure safety, it is important for vets to take regular breaks, use appropriate protective equipment, and have a buddy system in place in case of an emergency.
Keeping lone working veterinarians safe
Keeping lone working veterinarians safe is a priority, both from a business standpoint and on a personal responsibility front. To ensure their safety, it is important to ensure that they are properly trained on safety protocols, have access to emergency contacts, and are aware of the potential dangers of their work environment.
Additionally, providing lone working veterinarians with personal protective equipment, such as high-visibility clothing, can help improve their visibility and safety. It is also important to ensure that lone working veterinarians are regularly checking in with their managers before, during, and after their shifts, and that they have access to a dedicated emergency contact in the event of an emergency.
Finally, offering lone-working veterinarians access to mental health support and resources can help them to stay safe and healthy.
Lone working for farm vets
Farm vets are at particularly high risk when working alone. Firstly, they are more likely to be lone working due to the nature of their role. But they are also more likely to be travelling to an animal at their location, which increases the risk of driving concerns, isolation, poor communication and poor infrastructure.
Working alone as a farm vet can be a difficult and dangerous job, as you are often dealing with large animals in unfamiliar environments. To ensure your safety and the safety of the animals, it is important to take the correct precautions. Have a plan in place if something were to go wrong, such as a first-aid kit, a way to contact someone in case of an emergency, and a method of defending yourself if needed.
Additionally, be sure to take regular breaks to stay alert and refreshed, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. With the right preparation and mindset, you can work safely and confidently as a farm vet.
Lone-worker services from Kernow:
At Kernow vets messaging, we offer two main lone-worker services to help keep your vets safe. Our lone-worker protocols are designed to ensure that should the worst happen, we can get help to your vets as soon as possible and ensure their safety, regardless of location, time of day or the concern.
We have several different ways for you to monitor the whereabouts and well-being of your staff, including:
Call check-in service
In this option, your staff member checks in with us by calling at the start and the end of a job, trip, or shift. We then have escalation policies that will be followed accordingly if the check-in call is not received. The escalation process will depend on your specific requirements as a vet practice, but we are happy to offer advice and guidance when deciding on that process. For many clients, the process includes elements such as attempting to contact the lone worker, then informing a manager, and/or monitoring the location of the vet through tracking software in the vehicle.
Hourly check services
If safety is a regular concern, and your vets are working in a higher-risk setting, we have an hourly check-in service. Your staff member can call our dedicated line at pre-arranged times to check in. As mentioned above, we then have escalation policies to follow if check calls are missed.