Directors responsibilities for Lone Workers

Director's Responsibilities

Written by Patrick Dealtry, this blog post discusses the responsibilities that Director's have for their lone workers' safety and welfare. Failure to protect lone workers can lead to multi-million pound fines and further consequences when things go wrong.

A few days ago, I was asked ‘what are my responsibilities as a Director for the safety of my lone workers?’

The question took me back to 2004 when I was marketing the first GPS/GSM monitored lone worker devices. I explained what lone worker safety was about to the MD of a medium-sized company in London. He said, ‘Ah yes, I’ve got some of them but if I do a risk assessment I’ll have to do something about them and that will cost me money, so I am not going to do it.’

Fast forward to 15 February 2011 when Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings were fined due to a geologic trial pit collapsing, killing one lone worker. The fine was £385,000. There had been no risk assessment. This was a small company of 8 employees which subsequently went into liquidation. The fine was considered to be below the recommended minimum which could rise to many millions.

So, Directors should take their responsibilities to lone workers seriously, as of course, the clear majority do.

Their responsibilities to their lone working employees are no different to their overall legal duties under Health and Safety legislation.  The only difference is that their lone workers should have a specific risk assessment relating to that aspect of their employment, and not just come under the general risk assessment for all employees. It’s a simple process; lone worker risk assessment leading to a lone worker policy leading to reasonable procedures mitigating the risk.

Regarding Directors' Health & Safety responsibilities, HSE publishes several documents that will help. Three of the most useful are:

  1. Example Roles and Responsibilities’

This outlines the responsibilities of different staff members, particularly those with authority. It provides the key accountabilities of staff in most firms to protect both staff and employers.

  1. 'Leading Health and Safety at Work; Actions for directors, board members, business owners and organisations of all sizes'

This includes the following statements which may be useful as a reminder:

“Health and safety is integral to success. Board members who do not show leadership in this area are failing in their duty as Directors and their moral duty, and are damaging their organisation.”

“Health and safety is a fundamental part of business. Boards need someone with passion and energy to ensure it stays at the core of the organisation.”

“An organisation will never be able to achieve the highest standards of Health and Safety management without the active involvement of Directors. External stakeholders viewing the organisation will observe the lack of direction.”

“Board level involvement is an essential part of the 21st-century trading ethic. Attitudes to Health and Safety are determined by the bosses, not the organisation’s size.”

  1. ‘Health and Safety Leadership Checklist’

Perhaps the most useful practical document, this checklist gives succinct and practical advice based on a framework of Plan, Do, Check and Act. Essentially it asks relevant questions under the above headings and points the reader to documents providing the answers.

Coming back to lone workers, as a Director, making sure that proper attention is directed at the safety and security of lone workers also protects the organisation from the potentially crippling effects of failing to carry out what is pretty straightforward and generally well-understood actions.  

Don’t be a Cotswold Geotechnical.

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