Lone Working

Peninsula Team

August 12 2009

With the Corporate Manslaughter Act in place to ensure businesses are meeting their required health & safety obligations, it has never been more important for business owners to have appropriate health & safety procedures in place to make sure they don’t leave themselves open to a hefty fine and even a criminal conviction. The Health & Safety Advice Service are available all year round, 24 hours a day, to help with any issues you may have. Just give one of the Advice Team a call on 0844 892 2785.

People can work on their own where it is necessary and without foreseeable risk to their health and safety. In many cases the risks to which lone workers are exposed are not significantly different to those of workers doing the same task when others are present. In some situations though, lone workers may be at greater risk because of the nature and location of their work. Where employees are expected to work alone employers must be active in the management of the hazards and risks to the worker’s health and safety by taking common sense, sensible steps to protect them.

Before we consider the risks and sensible control measures we must first define what or who is a lone worker’. Anyone who works alone without direct or close supervision will be a lone worker and will include those at fixed premises where:

  • although there are many people at work, an individual worker works on their own in isolation e.g., in a warehouse, a maintenance shop, etc;
  • they are the only person on the premises e.g., in a shop or as a home-worker;
  • they work outside normal working hours as a cleaner, security guard, catching up on work, working on a special order, etc; or
  • those who work away from a fixed base and will include estate agents, sales representatives, community nurses, social workers, electricians, gas engineers etc.

Additional hazards and risks faced by lone workers will include things such as:

  • the risk of violent attack to a worker opening or closing a shop or warehouse late at night or early in the morning where the attacker is intent on theft;
  • the risk of violent attack because the work is with vulnerable people or in an area of social deprivation;
  • inability to summon assistance in the event of sudden illness or an accident;
  • extreme weather conditions and work in exposed places; or
  • manual handling during the delivery of goods.

Employers need to consider each case of lone working individually and identify and assess the risks faced by the lone workers. Once the risks are identified they can consider and consult with their workers on the sensible measures that could be used to reduce the risks to an acceptable level. Issues to consider will include:

  • Is access to and exit from the workplace safe and is the lighting and ventilation sufficient?
  • Is the equipment safe and maintained? What risks would there be if the equipment failed?
  • Is there a risk of violence involved in the work?
  • How will you communicate with the employee to check on their well being?
  • What are the arrangements for the worker in the event of an emergency?

For much of the work the control measures required will be similar to those required for work in a location where other workers are present. The significant differences are normally the risk of violence and working in remote and exposed locations in all weathers. These must be considered and action appropriate for each individual case must be taken.

An important element of any procedure or safe system of work for a lone worker will be arrangements for keeping in contact with the worker and checking their well-being throughout the working day. Lone workers should be provided with a means of communication, e.g. mobile phone and a suitable contact schedule. A nominated person with knowledge of the lone worker’s daily schedule should periodically contact the lone worker to check that all is well. A contact log should be maintained.

Where there is a risk of violent attack, personal attack alarms and// or tracking devices may be utilised. Global positioning or guardian’ systems linked to mobile phones or other communication technology are available, effective and may assist as monitoring devices. But it is also essential for workers who may face such threats to be properly trained in how to recognise and avoid the risk of attack.

Don’t forget that some activities including work in confined spaces and on live electrical equipment specifically requires the presence of two or more workers. In other situations, your own assessment of risks will show that a task is unsuitable for a lone worker. In these cases employers must make arrangements for additional personnel to be present to support the worker in the task or simply to be there as back-up in case of something going wrong.

Remember that lone workers must be supervised and managed. Arrangements to ensure their adequate supervision must form part of your working procedures. Routine contact by phone or similar systems alone will not be sufficient. Supervisors will need to periodically visit lone workers, observe their work and check that they are following procedures and that the procedures are themselves suitable. In the event of an incident or injury involving a lone worker, managers should carry out a thorough investigation and review their risk assessment and Safe System of Work. If necessary additional control measures should be introduced.

Our Health & Safety Advice Service is available 24 hours a day and is dedicated to helping your business avoid any hefty fines and even imprisonment by providing their expert advice. With HSA Qualified Health & Safety consultants, you are guaranteed to receive the best possible advice. Call now on 0844 892 2785, and our advisors will be ready to help.

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