People who work alone without direct or close supervision are lone workers. In the vast majority of work activities lone working is not illegal.
Mobile workers, such as, drivers, surveyors, service engineers, care workers, and the like who work away from their employer’s base are clearly identifiable and recognised as lone workers. However, it is important to acknowledge that lone workers may work at a fixed workplace; people who work in an isolated part of a plant and a maintenance worker whose work takes them all over a worksite will be lone workers for much of their time. ‘On call workers’, those working overtime, those who work outside normal hours and those who open and close work premises may, at times, also be lone workers.
Lone workers are often at risk because of the nature and location of their work. The risks that face theminclude:
- violent attack to a worker opening or closing a shop or warehouse where the attacker is intent on theft.
- violent attack because they work with vulnerable people or in an area of social deprivation.
- the inability to summon assistance in the event of sudden illness or an accident.
- unfamiliarity with the particular risks at a remote worksite.
- unsafe practices adopted by lone workers free from supervision.
- involvement in serious road traffic accidents.
- manual handling of tools and equipment between van or car and workplace.
- manual handling during the delivery of goods.
- injuries due to previously unknown poor health of the lone worker.
- lack of help or advice in the event of the unexpected.
The risks faced by lone workers can be reduced by measures including:
- training in the risk involved with the work activity and or lone working.
- establishing a system of routine communication with the lone worker.
- good supervision.
- the identification of potentially violent situations and implementation of effective control measures which could include the elimination of lone working.
- providing adequate emergency procedures.