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Lone Working – Protecting Those Working Alone

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Lone Working – Protecting Those Working Alone

As an employer, you must manage any health and safety risks before people can work alone. This applies to anyone contracted to work for you, including self-employed people.

Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision, for example:

  • as delivery drivers, health workers or engineers
  • as security staff or cleaners
  • in warehouses or petrol stations
  • at home

There will always be greater risks for lone workers without direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong.

Manage the risks of working alone

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the risk to lone workers must be managed.

Think about who will be involved and which hazards could harm those working alone.

You must:

  • train, supervise and monitor lone workers
  • keep in touch with them and respond to any incident
  • When a lone worker will be at someone else’s workplace you must ask that employer about any risks and control measures to make sure they are protected.

Risks to consider

Risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

  • violence in the workplace
  • stress and mental health or wellbeing
  • a person’s medical suitability to work alone
  • the workplace itself, for example if it’s in a rural or isolated area

High-risk work

Certain high-risk work requires at least one other person. This includes work:

  • in a confined space, where a supervisor may need to be there, along with someone in a rescue role
  • near exposed live electricity conductors
  • in diving operations
  • in vehicles carrying explosives
  • with fumigation

Working from home

Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for homeworkers and the same liability for accident or injury as for any other workers.

This means they must provide supervision, education and training, as well as implementing enough control measures to protect the homeworker.

Violence

Lone working does not always mean a higher risk of violence, but it does make workers more vulnerable. The lack of nearby support makes it harder for them to prevent an
incident.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines violence as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’ – this includes
verbal threats.

Some of the key workplace violence risks include:

  • late evening or early morning work, when fewer workers are around
  • lone workers, such as security staff, who have authority over customers and are enforcing rules
  • people affected by alcohol or drugs
  • carrying money or valuable equipment

Support and training

Put measures in place to support any worker who’s experienced violence. Workers can play their part by identifying and reporting incidents.

Training in personal safety or violence prevention will help workers:

  • recognise situations where they feel at risk
  • use conflict resolution techniques or leave the workplace

Impact of violence and how to prevent it

The impact of violence can lead to physical injury and work-related stress, which may have serious and long-term effects on workers’ physical and mental health.
Violence can also lead to high staff turnover, low productivity and damage to business reputation.

Stress and other health factors

Stress, mental health and wellbeing

Lone working can cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health.HSE’s Stress Management Standards include the importance of relationships with, and support from, other
workers. Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support.

Keep in touch

Put procedures in place that enable direct contact with the lone worker so their manager can recognise signs of stress as early as possible.
If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. This can affect their performance and potentially their stress levels and mental health

Working alone with a medical condition

if you are unsure whether someone’s health condition means they are safe to work alone, get medical advice. Think about both routine work and possible emergencies that may put additional physical and mental burdens on the lone worker.

First Aid and Emergencies

Put emergency procedures in place and train lone workers in how to use them.

Your risk assessment may indicate lone workers should:

  • carry first aid equipment
  • receive first aid training, including how to use first aid on themselves
  • have access to adequate first aid facilities

Emergency procedures should include guidance on how and when lone workers should contact their employer, including details of any emergency contact numbers.

Monitor Lone Workers’ Health

Some lone workers can have specific risks to their health. For example, lone HGV drivers have high physical and mental demands on them, with long periods behind the wheel. You should monitor their health and adapt drivers’ work to allow for any specific health needs.

Training, supervision and monitoring

Training

It’s harder for lone workers to get help, so they may need extra training. They should understand any risks in their work and how to control them.

Training is particularly important:

  • where there is limited supervision to control, guide and help in uncertain situations
  • in enabling people to cope with unexpected situations, such as those involving violence

You should set limits on what can be done while working alone. Make sure workers are:

  • competent to deal with the requirements of the job
  • trained in using any technical solutions
  • able to recognise when they should get advice

Supervision

Base your levels of supervision on your risk assessment – the higher the risk, the more supervision a lone worker will need. This will also depend on their ability to identify and handle health and safety issues.

The amount of supervision depends on:

  • the risks involved
  • their ability to identify and handle health and safety issues

It’s a good idea for a new worker to be supervised at first if they’re:

  • being trained
  • doing a job with specific risks
  • dealing with new situations

Monitoring and keeping in touch

Lone workers must be monitored and employers should keep in touch with them. They should make sure they understand any monitoring system and procedures you use. These may include:

  • when supervisors should visit and observe lone workers
  • knowing where lone workers are, with pre-agreed intervals of regular contact, using phones, radios, email etc
  • other devices for raising the alarm, operated manually or automatically
  • a reliable system to ensure a lone worker has returned to their base once they have completed their task

These systems should be regularly tested as well as all emergency procedures, to ensure lone workers can be contacted if a problem or emergency is identified

When workers’ first language is not English

Lone workers from outside the UK may come across unfamiliar risks, in a workplace culture very different from that in their own country.

Employers must ensure they have received and understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely.

For more information or support, contact us on info@wpsafety.co.uk or 01268 649006.

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