There are roles across a wide variety of sectors that require people to work alone. The hazards may be no different to those who are working with others, but working in isolation brings with it its own unique risks, or exacerbates others.
The legislation around safe working environments has been created and expanded, over the past few decades to make employers and employees aware of their legal responsibilities around health and safety. We offer a summary of those which are particularly relevant to lone working.
Do you have lone workers?
The Health and Safety Executive Defines lone workers as “… those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.”
Is it safe to work alone?
There will be many scenarios in which it’s safe to work alone, but this is something an employer must, by law, consider before putting an employee into a situation where they will be working on their own. Additional risks might be around:
- A lack of or inadequate provision of welfare facilities, such as a place to rest or use the toilet – this is especially true of those working in the field, who are likely to be lone workers, such as security guards.
- Violence and abuse from members of the public – industry figures show that 200,000 retail staff are attacked each year, while those working in social care are also at higher risk.
- Theft or intruders aware of low or unoccupied premises
Sudden illness or medical emergencies – with an ageing workforce and long spells driving in isolation, HGV drivers in particular are vulnerable to this risk
- The mental effects of social isolation – including people living on their own and working from home
- Risks related to driving – there is the obvious risk of collisions, but also breaking down in an isolated area, or being attacked if transporting valuable goods.
- Lack of supervision and training – a safety device is one way to protect against these threats, but only if the worker knows how to use it and has it with them
What legislation exists to protect them?
There are several laws which apply to lone working, even if they’ve not been specifically created for this reason. The key pieces of legislation which apply to lone workers are:
- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
- Health & Safety Offences Act 2008
A summary of each legislation around lone working
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 was introduced to improve the health, safety and welfare of workers in the UK. It states that an employer must identify health and safety risks, and put reasonable measures in place to ensure safe working conditions. They must also provide employees with information and training to ensure their own safety.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
In support of the above legislation, this regulation refers more to assessing the risks, and rolling out procedures which protect against them
Employer duties under this regulation include:
- Working with employees to conduct lone working risk assessments.
- Take steps to mitigate against the risks, and create a procedure and channels of communication which can monitor those working alone for their safety, such as a lone working alarm.
- Depending on the risk, the levels of supervision will vary.
- Make sure the employee can do their tasks, and provide information and training on how to do so safely.
- Consider medical conditions which might make someone unsuitable for lone working.
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
This later law puts the onus firmly on an employer’s responsibility around a safe working environment. If they fail, the company can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter in the event of a fatality.
Senior management of the organisation must be compliant with the two above regulations, and conduct regular training not just for the lone workers themselves, but those who manage them.
The act also requires the company to keep up to date with solutions and technologies which can help mitigate the risks. Equally, the organisation needs to remain informed on research around exposure to certain materials or environments which can cause long-term health issues.
The Health & Safety Offences Act 2008
This reinforces the responsibility around health and safety duties. The penalty for a general breach of duties under the HASAWA in a Magistrates’ Court is a fine of up to £200,000 and up to 12 months in prison. In a Crown Court, this is increased to an unlimited fine and/or up to two years in prison.
Are lone workers responsible for their own safety by law too?
Yes. The four laws above outline that lone workers must:
- Attend any health and safety training the employer provides
- Take reasonable care of their own health and safety, as well as those affected by their work
- Work with employers on conducting a risk assessment and providing any relevant necessary information
- Report potential safety hazards
- Comply with lone-working policies, which might include the proper use of lone-working alarms
- Disclose any medical conditions or disability which makes them unsuitable for lone working
To make a start on navigating these responsibilities, take a look at our lone worker policy template.