The number of people working alone is rising, and isolated work is becoming more frequent. People who work alone are generally more vulnerable and are working at a higher perceived risk.
What is a lone worker?
Lone workers are defined as someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision. This may include:
- Working alone from a permanent base such as a petrol station or shop
- Working alone outside of normal working hours e.g. night shift workers
- Working in isolation from others that are within the same premises
- Working away from a permanent base, for example estate agents and field engineers
- All types of mobile workers
Legalities regarding lone working
Lone working is not considered against the law however employers have a responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their workers. It is therefore required by the employer that a risk assessment is conducted. This is to ensure any potential risks are controlled by understanding what may cause harm and taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm.
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) is the primary legislation covering occupational health and safety in Great Britain, this is available to view here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/
Controlling the risk of lone working
The following methods can be used to control risks:
- Ensure any potential risks are removed and control measures are put in place
- Training and supervision
- Lone worker solution such as a smartphone app
- Regularly reviewing risk assessments when there has been a significant change in the workplace
This may include:
- Understanding that some tasks may be too difficult to perform or too dangerous to be conducted alone
- When a risk assessment highlights a job cannot be conducted by a lone worker, addressing the risk by ensuring the worker is not alone
- Smartphone application showing the whereabouts of the lone worker and allowing them to raise a panic alarm and check-in
A risk assessment should highlight high-risk activities and aid employers in deciding on the correct level of supervision. Examples include:
- Working in a confined space whereby another employee may need to be present plus someone dedicated to the rescue role
- Working close to exposed live electricity conductors
- Working in the health and social care sector with unpredictable patients
Any significant findings from a risk assessment such as the hazards should be recorded and control measures should be implemented.
Lone worker training
Training is particularly important where there is limited supervision in uncertain situations. Lone workers are unable to ask colleagues for help therefore adequate and in-depth training is imperative.
Lone workers must be fully aware of the risks and hazards that they may face and advised on precautionary measures.
Employers should set limits of what can and can’t be done by anyone working alone. They should ensure workers are able to conduct the job in a competent manner.
How are lone workers supervised?
The level of supervision required depends on the risk severity and the lone workers ability to recognise and manage health and safety hazards.
The extent of supervision should be determined by management based on the findings from the risk assessment, for example the higher the perceived risk the greater level of supervision required.
In situations where a worker is new to a job it may be sensible for them to be accompanied by an experienced colleague until they are confident in the job and are able to recognise all risks.
How can lone workers be monitored?
Being able to communicate with lone workers is essential and therefore effective and reliable means are imperative. These may include:
- Supervisors visiting lone workers
- Regular contact between the lone worker and supervisor at pre-determined intervals
- Implementing an automated app ensuring the continual monitoring of lone workers through check-in and panic alarm functionality
- Lone worker app with GPS for visibility of lone workers location
Emergency situations and lone working
Emergency procedures should be established within the risk assessment and employees should be fully trained on these and capable of responding correctly to emergency situations. Lone workers should also have access to a First Aid kit and depending on what the risk assessment highlighted they may also need First Aid training.
For further information on lone working please visit www.hse.gov.uk
Check out Crystal Ball’s award-winning lone worker protection app for more information.