There are many lone workers in the UK, carrying out jobs in isolation and falling into three main categories – working with members of the public, working at a fixed location or mobile working which involves travelling to different locations throughout the day.
A lone worker is someone who works by themselves, without any supervision. Lone working presents a set of health and safety challenges that need an adequate plan in place to help reduce and avoid the risks for those working on their own. It’s an employer obligation to ensure that the risks of working alone are assessed and mitigated, in order to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Act 1999.
Lone workers can be at risk of many hazards and accidents that would not be as dangerous if they were accompanied by a colleague, including injury, abuse, assault and environmental dangers. The best thing to do is carry out a lone workers risk assessment, in the first instance.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), here are some things to consider before allowing your employees to begin working alone:
- You should assess areas of risk including violence, manual handling, the medical profile of your employee and whether their place of work presents any risk.
- Consider any training requirements, level of experience and how you can supervise them remotely.
- Having a process/system in place to keep in touch with them and allow you to respond if there’s an incident.
Other control measures can also be put in place that includes; the provision of PPE, panic alarms, periodic checks, a reliable method of communication, first-aid kits and training, implementing Standard Operating Procedures and implementing the appropriate security so they’re safe in their place of work.
If an employee is working at a remote location, you should factor in how long the work will take, how often the employee should check-in, whether they can access the site safely and travel to and from work safely, whether there’s adequate hygiene, welfare, first aid and break out areas and whether the emergency services are able to access the location, in case of an emergency.
Another growing concern is the stress and mental welfare of lone workers. Working alone is known to negatively impact mental health, so extra precautions and providing the right support is important. Maintaining direct contact with the employee is imperative to prevent them from feeling isolated and abandoned.
For more information and detailed instructions on how to manage the risk for those that work alone, either as an employee, volunteer or contractor, read the HSE’s extensive guide to protecting the safety of lone workers here https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg73.pdf