I have noticed recently there is an increase in the awareness and importance of making sure employed (PAYE) staff know how to keep themselves safe when lone working. For staff to learn and to be confident in the processes and procedures of lone working and to ultimately know what to do in an event of an emergency, e.g. a risk to their personal safety. But of course, lone working is a topic not just for those who are employed, but for the self-employed also. One could argue lone working is even more of an issue for self-employed people. It could be argued that of those of us who are self-employed and who regularly work on their own, having robust lone working processes in place is paramount to their safety.
It appears that sometimes there can be a culture of ‘I’ll be alright’ and ‘no need to make a fuss’ towards lone working and personal safety. I too am guilty of thinking like this, the classic mantra of ‘that could/would never happen to me’. However, considering the different places I visit and the distances I travel, it is important someone knows where I am. Whilst I am mindful that my field of work means confidentiality is essential, I do not believe this needs to be compromised in any way. I believe there are ways of informing someone where I am without revealing any information about the client. I know of other interpreters who share their electronic calendar with their partner. Their partner is only able to see the location, time and date (rather than the clients name, reason for booking, etc.). I know other interpreters who text the person they trust to let them know they have arrived at different locations and when they arrive home. ASLI Lone Working guidelines state that “….freelance interpreters should notify suitable team member/family member/buddy: Address of where they are going; Time of visit and expected time of return; Name and phone number of person to be visited”. In particular, the guidance highlights the need to always tell someone where you are going, the route you plan to take and what time you expect to return.
However, I know other colleagues (including myself, up until recently) that have no lone working procedures/protocols in place. To be registered as an interpreter I have to have an up to date DBS check, for reasons of safeguarding others. But what about safeguarding ourselves in the work that we do? The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance ‘Working Alone’ file:///C:/Users/chall/Downloads/indg73.pdf says that training is particularly important for lone workers. Particularly as “Lone workers are unable to ask more experienced colleagues for help, so extra training may be appropriate”. Lone working is not only about someone causing you harm, but also accidents. For example, slips and trips, car accidents in places with no signal, etc. (I understand the concept of having no signal in a bustling city like London seems impossible, but in the rural areas that the interpreters cover – it is very much possible to lose signal, e.g. Dartmoor). If we were the manager of a group of staff then we would have a duty to ensure their health and safety, so if we are our own managers/boss, then why don’t we regard things such as health and safety seriously for ourselves?!
The ASLI lone working guidance also highlights the importance being proactive in making your own pre-assignment enquiries – the importance of asking! I know this too well when I was a trainee sign language interpreter and assumed the other professional would wait for me outside the client’s house before entering. I was wrong to assume this and put myself in danger by entering the clients house without knowing if the other professional was inside already. Now, I know to categorically tell the agency to inform the other professional to wait outside for me and we can enter the property together, or I ask for the other professionals contact details to be able to text each other’s location.
Regardless of whether the risk is high or low, there is still a risk in lone working in the work that we do as interpreters. A simple phone call when you’ve arrived safely to your destination and when you have arrived home shouldn’t be too much of an ask. Let someone know where you are going and what time you are due to be back. These are all such simple steps to ensure personal safety and wellbeing. Look after yourselves!