Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, you must manage the risk to lone workers.
It’s useful to note that lone working should follow the general hierarchy of control- for example if you can avoid lone working then this is ideal (eliminating the risk). Before we get into the detail, here’s some background information;
What is a lone worker?
A lone worker can be any employee (in any industry), that is required to work alone for any length of time.
Here’s some examples;
- Workers that are required to travel between different sites.
- Engineers and maintenance teams that work in remote areas of the plant
- Staff that attend unmanned sites
- Workers that provide 1-1 support to individuals
- Workers that are responsible for teaching classes alone
- Out-of-hours workers, such as cleaners or janitorial staff
- Reception workers that work unsupervised
- A worker that ‘mans’ a certain area of a depot or site
- Employees that make home visits such as social workers, school liaison officers, community nurses
- Public facing employees such as traffic wardens, police officers, environmental health officers, MP’s
Due to the lone worker role being so diverse amongst every sector and job type, this is why the risks to lone working can often be over looked.
Ok so what do employers need to do if they have lone workers within their workforce?
First of all, the development of a lone working policy is a good idea. This will highlight the company level commitment to keeping lone workers safe. It may go into some of the specifics and identify the main risks to the workforce. It’s a good idea, within this document to identify the key legislation and guidance documents available for use in lone working scenarios.
I’ve also developed specific procedures for lone workers, however this type of document sits under the policy and is to be read in conjunction with the specific RA for the work.
Next, you guessed it, undertake a lone worker Risk Assessment. This should detail the main risks to the worker- I can’t emphasise this next point enough; consult your workforce. Well speak to your lone workers, they will have the best understanding of what conditions they work in and what the risks actually are.
Now is the best time to use the findings of the risk assessment within a specific procedure for lone workers to follow.
Something that is often missed with similar situations- emergency arrangements/emergency action plan. I.e. what do the lone workers do in an emergency?
Here you will find information on:
I’ve been involved in a few lone working risk assessments and they all have their own merits and points to consider.
I’ve found in this day and age (how old do I sound here?!) that CCTV and mobile phones are particularly useful tools at the hands of a lone worker. There are several decent lone working apps available for download which are great for multiple lone workers across a business.
Something I’ve always found quite difficult though is the impact of the general public to lone workers. This is where things like physical and verbal abuse are a cause for concern.
Demonstrate to your workers that you value their safety. Even if it’s an hourly check in call with a colleague, it’s all worthwhile and a reassuring tool for lone workers.