What is a lone worker?
According to the Health & Safety Executive, the meaning of lone worker is simply an employee who “performs tasks or works in isolation from other workers without close or direct supervision”.
With around 8 million lone workers in the UK and working alone named one of the top ten hazards of concern to employees, employers must place high importance on assessing and mitigating the risks they face.
With an increasing number of organisations offering flexible working practices, there are more at-risk employees than ever before.
At-risk employees can be simply defined as employees who work at a heightened risk. Individuals who carry around expensive equipment or bank employees who hold sensitive information would fall into this category. They may not work alone, but are still at risk of being attacked once they leave the workplace.
Examples of a lone worker by industry
- Government administrations – Ellected councillors, social workers, housing officers, maintenance workers, gardeners
- Office and administration – Someone who workers late, receptionist
- Utilities – gas engineers, electricians, surveyors
- Retail and Wholesale – Warehouse operatives, cashiers, delivery drivers
- Transport and logisitics – Mechanics, HGV drivers
This is just an example, but the fact is, there are very few sectors in which you won’t find someone who works alone.
What are the hazards of lone working?
Many risks that face other employees are amplified for someone working alone. For example, one person on their own is an easier target for aggression. And if someone has a fall and there’s no one around, they’re less likely to get the medical attention they need.
- Slips trips and falls
- Working from a height
- Violence and agression from members of the public
- Driving related risks
- Working with machinery and moving parts
- Isolation and anxiety
What can you do to protect your lone workers?
Monitor them during periods of working alone – Have a lone worker policy in place which outlines how often lone workers should be checking in, with phones, radios, email or other dedicated devices. Consider whether the risks they face in working alone warrant the need for an alarm.
Carry out regular tests of these systems and procedures so you can make sure they’re working as they should and your colleagues understand their obligations.
Schedule regular training and supervision sessions so that your lone workers are confident in what they need to do to ensure their safety when working alone.
This might mean not carrying out certain activities, such as working outdoors in high winds, or drawing on specific training to manage voilent situations.
If your lone worker’s first language is not English, consider that they workplace culture in their country might be different, and ensure they fully understand how to work safely in your organisation.
Get your paperwork in order. Risk assessments are an essential piece of your Health and Safety armour. Do you have them, and if you do, are lone workers considered in them?
We’ve created a separate article on this, complete with free lone worker risk assessment templates for you to use.
If you identify you have lone workers in your organisation, you’ll also need to look at a lone worker policy. Check out our free lone worker policy template here.
Use technology. A lone worker solution is a communication sysem designed with specific features to keep a lone worker out of harms way. It’s typically made up of three components:
- The mechanism – the device or application used to summon assistance, such as a lone worker app, pebble device alarm, or portable panic button.
- The online portal – where all activity can be viewed and tracked
- The control room or Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) – from where assistance is deployed. ARC’s which are BS8484 accredited are able to summon a level 1 priority Police response if necessary.
Think about a lone worker solutions provider? Take a look at our free crib sheet with questions you should ask to ensure they’re a good fit for your organisation.
Is lone working legal?
Yes, lone working is legal, but the circumstances and the employee’s suitability need to be considered before assigning someone to a lone working role. That’s where your risk assessment comes in.
If someone is injured or becomes ill while at work and they were alone, there may be an investigation by the HSE. This investigation will look to confirm that you took all reasonable measures to ensure that lone worker was in a safe working environment, and had received proper training.
If, for example, you gave someone lone working device, but didn’t show them how to use it, that you’ve not fulfilled your duty of care if they come to harm’s way. At Pick Protection, we offer initial training and a recording you and your team can return to at no extra cost. From there, we provide ongoing support with regular meetings around usage, and a dedicated customer success team.
Laws around lone working
There are four key acts & regulations which are relevant to lone worker obligations:
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA) is the primary piece of UK health and safety legislation. It requires employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees as well as others on their premises.
The main requirements of this Act are:
- The safe operation and maintenance of the working environment, plant and systems
- Maintenance of safe access and egress to the workplace
- Safe use, handling and storage of dangerous substances
- Adequate training of staff
- Adequate welfare provisions for staff at work
Management of Health & Safety At Work 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess and manage risks to their employees and others as a result of any work activities. Employees also have duties under this act to take reasonable care, use equipment as trained and report any shortcomings in health and safety protocol.
The employers’ duties to ensure a safe working environment are:
- Establish procedures that should be followed in an emergency situation
- Provide adequate training and information for employees
- Provide health and safety surveillance where appropriate
- Appoint appropriate people to assist in the above measures
- Ensure employees aren’t given tasks beyond their competence and physical capabilities
Health & Safety (Offences) 2008
The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, lays out the maximum penalties that can be made against defendants under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The Act gives lower courts the power to impose fines and/or imprisonment for the following health and safety offences:
- Breaches of general duties under HASAWA Sections 2 – 8
- Non-compliance with an improvement notice, a prohibition notice or a court order
- Making a false statement or entry in a register
- Breaches of general duties under HASAWA Section 9
- Obstructing or pretending to be an Inspector
Corporate Manslaughter & Homicide Act 2007
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 clarifies the criminal liabilities of organisations where failures in health and safety management have resulted in a fatality. This means that organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of how activities are managed and organised by senior management.
The organisations to which this legislation applies are:
- A corporation
- A department or other body
- A police force
- A partnership
- A trade union or employer’s association that is an employer
Understanding your obligations towards protecting your lone workers is a step in the right direction. Next, you’ll want to create a risk assessment to identify and manage the risks.
But the responsibilty doesn’t entirely rest with you as a manager. Lone workers themselves needs to take steps to look after their own safety and that of others around them. Visit our blog where we go more in depth into the key pieces of legislation around lone working.
Want to learn more?
We’ve put together a mini-series giving you the basics in lone working in bitesized video modules. Gain confidence and enjoy our lone worker protecting course for free and on demand.