How To: Set Up A Buddy System for working alone

Setting up a Buddy System for working alone

The term Buddy System dates back to the 1940’s and has it’s origins in the US Military, where pilots would look out for each other, often referred to as wingmen, a term which is still common across the English speaking world.

“I will look out for you and you look out for me”

The ‘Buddy System’ is a procedure in which two people, the ‘buddies’, operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other.

It is mainly referred to in two different contexts:

  • Orientations for staff or students new to an organisation,
  • Or safety monitoring for working alone or adventurous activities.

The focus of this blog is on the second item here; using a buddy system for safety monitoring of staff working alone.

How does a working alone Buddy System work?

A Buddy System for working alone is a pretty simple concept, “I will watch out for you if you will watch out for me”.

In a work place situation that means creating a formal arrangement where a team of staff are divided into buddies and are assigned the responsibility of looking out for each other’s safety. This may include buddies:

  • Sharing what their plans are for working alone
  • Reviewing each other’s safety measures
  • Setting times they will check in with each other
  • Identifying what tasks do and don’t need a Buddy System
  • Creating a procedure for what happens if a buddy doesn’t check in

What are the Benefits?

There are many benefits of using a Buddy System in this manner, including:

  • Putting the onus on staff to look out for one another,
  • It incentivizes staff to use it, “If I don’t watch out for them, they won’t watch out for me”,
  • You are experts in your own field of work and you all know what is required for your safety monitoring requirements,
  • Helps create friendship and comradery within your team,
  • Reduces the time costs on Supervisors and Admin staff on recording lone working staff’s intentions 
  • It negates the need for expensive monitoring services or call centres
  • It is easy to set up and run
  • Most importantly it can actually be a very effective monitoring system.

What are the Limitations?

While all this sounds excellent and easy, there are some limitations of using Buddy Systems for work place safety monitoring we think you need to be aware of in planning your Buddy System:

  • What happens if a buddy is busy, sick or on leave,
  • It relies entirely on humans, which is never a great thing for any system due to inevitable human error,
  • It is a passive monitoring system; meaning staff are often left relying on the memory of their buddy to raise an alarm,
  • It is the silence of not checking in that is the most concerning and should raise the most concern; however, silence is a useless way of alerting anyone,
  • If you are needing to check in more than once a day it can be a lot of work for both buddies,
  • Often there is a large verbal communication component, of which there is no record to reference to prove staff did the right thing in an incident,
  • It can create friction in teams if the expectations between buddies are different

We trust you found this of use, please contact us if there is anything you wish to contribute.

Also check out our other blog post about the limitations of phoning and texting or how GetHomeSafe Corporate can completely remove the limitations of using a Buddy System to monitor your team of lone working staff.