With an estimated 6-8 million lone workers in the UK making up around 20% of the total workforce, employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. Any organisation with employees who spend some of their time working alone – either because they are travelling to different locations or are working on-site outside of normal working hours – needs to take lone worker protection seriously.
But what exactly are your options for lone worker protection, and how can the various lone worker solutions overcome the challenges associated with lone working? Here’s our comprehensive guide to why your organisation needs to implement effective lone worker protection.
How do we define lone workers?
Lone workers are defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision’. These workers may work from home, have to travel alone for work, or be located in remote areas.
Lone working can encompass a wide range of different types of work, including field service personnel, sales representatives, consultants, and people who work alone outside normal working hours such as security or cleaning staff.
Challenges faced by lone workers
Due to the lack of close supervision or other colleagues nearby, lone workers often face unique challenges in their roles. These challenges and risks include:
Accidents and injuries
In some fields, lone workers may be frequently exposed to hazardous environments and situations. For example, lone workers performing maintenance in the field or alone on a construction site may be at risk of dealing with dangerous and faulty equipment, falls from heights, or risks due to the natural environment or weather such as slipping on ice or danger from the wildlife.
Without colleagues or supervisors nearby to help and raise the alarm in the unfortunate case of an injury or accident, lone workers are at risk of serious harm.
Some examples of lone working situations where accidents and injuries are a risk factor include oil and gas extraction, forestry, construction, and cleaning.
Attacks and violence from other people
Regrettably, some occupations carry a higher risk of lone workers encountering attacks or violence. These may stem from a range of causes such as volatile individuals or criminal activities. For this reason, it’s essential that lone workers have access to adequate protections so that they can seek assistance and raise alarms if any such physical or verbal attack arises.
Examples of lone workers who may be at increased risk during their roles are security guards, healthcare workers, and social workers.
Lone working means that individuals who experience a sudden medical condition or illness do not have access to immediate aid from colleagues and supervisors. With nobody to assist and contact emergency services, lone working individuals need to take additional safety measures to avoid the risks posed by allergic reactions, heart attacks, seizures, or any other sudden medical condition.
Health emergencies can occur in a wide range of different lone working roles because they are not always related to the working conditions themselves. However, some workers who are at increased risk of becoming unwell at work include laboratory workers who may be exposed to hazardous materials and cleaners who use harmful chemicals, both of which can increase the likelihood of a severe reaction.
Mental health impacts of working alone
Finally, lone working can also bring about serious mental health impacts. Without social support from colleagues, lone workers can feel stressed, anxious, and lonely. Feelings of isolation and poor mental wellbeing can also compound other occupational hazards.
Examples of workers who may be at increased risk of mental health impacts from lone work include anyone who works outside of normal working hours such as night shift security personnel or cleaners. Additionally, people who work particularly stressful roles like social workers may also be more vulnerable to these risks.
What is lone worker protection?
Lone worker protection is a broad term that encompasses the different strategies and tools that an employer may use to ensure the safety of employees who work without close or direct supervision.
One aspect of lone worker protection is a risk assessment. This involves identifying the potential risks and hazards that are associated with the lone workers’ roles in their work environments. From the location, types of equipment or chemicals used, types of natural threat (weather, wildlife, or natural disaster, for example), or even security threats, the risk assessment seeks to provide an overview of all the different situations that could cause harm on the job.
Creating effective communication channels is also essential, allowing lone workers to stay in touch with their supervisors and colleagues. With these communication channels, it’s easier for lone working individuals to report potential hazards or concerns, get assistance and support when necessary, and receive guidance from their supervisor.
However, one of the most effective ways to increase the safety and wellbeing of lone workers is to implement a technological solution.
Historically, lone worker solutions were dedicated lone worker devices – unique hardware that the employee must always carry, possibly by clipping it onto a lanyard or belt. These devices such as lone worker alarms could send out an alert in the case of an incident.
However, technological advancements now mean that smartphone apps have become the superior and most popular lone worker solution. Almost all employees already have a smartphone so this is an efficient and cost-effective solution which can help keep workers safe wherever they are.
Why lone worker protection is so important
Moral responsibility to ensure a safe work environment
Every employer should implement lone worker protection solutions to demonstrate their commitment to the safety and wellbeing of their workforce. Even if there was no legal obligation to do this, there would be a moral responsibility to keep employees safe on the job. This ensures a sense of trust within the organisation, providing a better work environment where employees feel safe and cared for.
Legal responsibility to keep employees safe
In addition to the moral duty to keep lone working individuals safe, regulations such as the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007 state that organisations have a legal responsibility to look after their employees’ health and safety. Although there are currently no laws specifically addressing health and safety for lone workers, these regulations apply to all employees. Employers are required to conduct risk assessments and provide training and supervision for their staff to ensure their safety and welfare.
Higher employee morale
Prioritising the protection of lone working staff with a dedicated app emphasises that the organisation cares about the wellbeing of employees. This helps staff feel valued and appreciated, increasing their morale in their roles. Especially for people who work alone and may start to feel isolated or anxious, the knowledge that they have an app where they can immediately get help in the case of an incident or problem in the workplace can be beneficial for morale.
Following on from the previous point, employees who feel protected and supported in their workplace – even when lone working – can focus more on their work and carry out tasks to a higher standard. Reducing risks and increasing employees’ sense of safety means that they can perform their duties with more confidence and do better work in the long run.
Improve your organisation’s reputation
Finally, employers that use effective solutions like a lone worker app can enjoy a better organisational reputation. Demonstrating commitment to employees’ welfare and safety makes it more likely that the brand will be seen in a positive light by potential customers and future employees, providing real benefits for your bottom line.
Upgrade to the lone worker app today
Crystal Ball’s award-winning lone worker app is the best solution for any organisation wanting to better protect the welfare of its workers. With BS8484 accreditation, the app offers a range of benefits including:
- Welfare timers: Lone workers can set automated timers for when they need to check in with the monitoring team, and if they fail to check in the alarm is automatically raised.
- GPS technology: Supervisors can view lone workers’ GPS locations.
- Discreet lone worker alarm: Workers can discreetly activate a panic alarm manually by pressing a hotkey on the lone worker device.
- Mobile NFC functionality: Lone workers can check in and out of locations to notify supervisors.
… and much more!
Ready to boost your remote team’s safety with an award-winning app? Get in touch today!