When you think of workplace safety, the first thing most American’s think of is the OSHA poster pinned
up in the breakroom. These rules are very important for all companies, not just management
companies. With that said though, we want to look at a different segment of workplace safety –
interactions with the public, specifically for Lone Workers. To do so, we looked to the experts on the
matter, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
To start off, what is a Lone Worker?
A Lone Worker is an employee who carries out their job partially or completely alone. Working under
these conditions exposes the employee to high levels of risk than non-Lone Workers due to their
inability to access help from colleagues. In addition, Lone Workers are identified as being at higher risk
of criminal targeting due to their solitude.
What increases risk?
The following factors have been identified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) as being likely to increase a workers risk. To illustrate these risk factors, we’ve provided
examples on how they apply within the multifamily industry.
1. Contact with the public, also term a “customer facing business”
2. Working alone or in small numbers
3. Working late or during early morning hours
4. Working in high crime areas
o Example in Multifamily: Every prospect that walks into your property and asks to tour a
vacant unit with your employee falls under this category. Unlike most Lone Worker
jobs, however, leasing agents are required to go behind closed doors with unknown
individuals creating a sharp spike in risk.
o Example in Multifamily: Lightly staffed offices are the standard in multifamily. These
small numbers are then exacerbated by the nature of each employee’s job – leasing
agents work alone behind closed doors throughout the day. Property Managers work
alone in the office with one or two others. Maintenance Technicians work all over the
property working with machinery and tools alone. In all cases, they define the Lone
Worker description and the dangers that are entailed by this title.
o Example in Multifamily: Oddly enough, for on-site workers, the opposite of this is the
case, but the concept remains the same: while the majority of the population is one
place(ie,. Work), they are in the dramatically less active location (Apartment
Community). Why is this important? Just like the woman cleaning an empty office late
at night, apartment staff do not have the comfort of operating in a busy location, which
increases their risk.
o Example in Multifamily: This is situational, but any veteran of multifamily has worked
at or had a property or two in their portfolio in which they were on a first name basis
with local law enforcement. Every month there are reports of unexpected victims of
5. Working in a community based setting
6. Having a highly mobile work place
7. Working with unstable or volatile people
8. Delivery of goods and services strangers
violence at a community including office break-ins, shootings, stabbings, drug addicts
lashing out, domestic violence, and more.
o Example in Multifamily: Multifamily is a business of housing. When things turn south,
as in the case of an eviction, Property Managers are the focal point of a former residents
ire, not the management company. Taking away someone’s home is not just business,
it’s very personal and in every office right now, an evicted resident can walk into the
leasing office and have access to the Property Manager, greatly increasing his or her
o Example in Multifamily: This is true for Leasing Agents and Maintenance Technicians. If
they’re doing their job, they’re not sitting in the office. These individuals are highly
isolated and are more vulnerable to risk.
o Example in Multifamily: In a continued theme, on-site employees are statistically more
likely to run into unstable individuals than conventional office set ups (like corporate
offices). Property Managers are the face of the company and are the point of contact
for not only the public, but also hundreds of residents living at the community, which
inherently increases the level of risk to them.
o Example in Multifamily: A risk increasing situation that most would not think of
initially, on-site staff, especially Leasing Agents and Assistant Property Managers are
often asked to post notices and distribute flyers around the community, generally in
closed off hallways that offer limited escape. In addition, Property Managers and
Maintenance Technicians are required to inspect apartment units at times, which puts
them in higher risk environments.
Read also: Ways to Reduce Lone Worker Risk from NIOSH