22 May Assessing Lone Worker Risk at your Organisation
The starting point for all lone worker protection policies and procedures is a risk assessment. This blog will dive deeper into what this risk assessment should include and the legislation that must be adhered to. Don’t forget that your lone worker policy should also fit in with your organisations’ health and safety policy.
Lone Worker Legislation
Lone Workers are covered by legislation as part of general employee health and safety. Many employers then think that a general employee assessment would cover lone workers. This is not so; there needs to be a specific assessment focused on them and their circumstances.
Also, the assessment should cover both the environment in which the worker may find themselves and the work itself. For example, an engineer working at a remote electricity site may be vulnerable to:
> Road, weather or other factors, while travelling to the site
> Potential for harm while carrying out the work
> The remoteness of the site if an emergency response is required
The inference in such circumstances is that the ability to complete the task safely would include the establishment of effective back-up, the ability to call for help quickly and accurately and a fall-down alarm. It may also mean that 2 people are needed.
Why Do Lone Workers Need a Separate Risk Assessment?
While Lone Workers may be exposed to the same standard risks as other employees there are different factors which may be specific to them. For example:
> Violence and abuse from members of the public or from customers while visiting them in their homes
> Sudden illness/emergencies
> Inadequate provision and supervision of rest, hygiene, and welfare facilities
For homeworkers or those who travel directly from home to visit customers:
> Effects of social isolation
> Risks related to travelling
> Lack of supervision and training
In addition, homeworkers may also be vulnerable because of:
> Inadequate fire prevention
> Response arrangements
> Inadequate working environment
These factors, among others, should be considered during the assessment.
Things You Might Not Know
While the two major items of legislation are well known, the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 is less so. It requires employers to consult with their workforce, either directly or through safety representatives.
Legislation apart, in many cases Lone Workers will be the best judges of their own vulnerability. It is only sensible to involve them in the assessment.
The HSE, in its guidance on Lone Working, stresses that the risks must be assessed and controlled and says that employers of lone workers should:
> Take steps to check control measures are in place (examples of control measures include instruction, training, supervision and issuing protective equipment).
> Review risk assessments annually or, as few workplaces stay the same when there has been a significant change in working practice.
> When a risk assessment shows it is not possible for the work to be conducted safely by a lone worker, address that risk by, for example, making arrangements to provide help or back-up.
> Where a lone worker is working at another employer’s workplace, that employer should inform the lone worker’s employer of any risks and the required control measures.
Written by Patrick Dealtry