As an employer it’s your responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all members of staff, but there are some sectors and roles where you may employ or engage with lone workers. Of course, it isn’t against the law to work alone, but there should be additional considerations for those operating independently to ensure they remain healthy and safe, and that you are covered for health and safety legislation outlined in the Health & Safety Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
In the same way that you would carry out risk assessments for your entire workforce, lone workers should have the same principles applied, but the risks and procedures need to be specifically tailored to lone workers who will have little or no supervision. They need to be fully prepared to deal with foreseeable situations and all potential risks should be accounted for.
Lone Worker Roles
There are various roles that may require employees to work alone without direct supervision, which are categorised into fixed establishments and mobile workers. Fixed establishments may have lone workers who operate from their homes, in small workshops, petrol stations, shops or kiosks; as well as those who work alone for long periods in factories, warehouses, fairgrounds or leisure centres; and those who work outside of normal working hours like cleaners, security and maintenance staff. Mobile workers can include remote roles in construction, plant installation, repair and maintenance and cleaning work; agricultural and forestry work; and service workers such as postal staff, estate agents, social and medical workers, sales and service executives who are visiting domestic and commercial properties.
Assessing the inherent risks
As with any role, it’s important to assess the risks and implement the appropriate preventative measures. To ensure you have all risk elements covered, it’s important to involve lone workers in this process as they will know the job inside out to put forward suggestions on avoiding risks. This could be ensuring the right safety equipment is supplied and in good working order, such as safety headwear and gloves for construction workers or packing tools for warehouse workers that are safe to be operated by one person. It is also imperative to consider if the job is actually safe to be carried out by one person and provide necessary assistance if it’s deemed too difficult or unsafe.
Once risks have been assessed, it is your legal obligation as an employer to instruct and train lone workers on health and safety matters, as well as consider the appropriate level of supervision. In those instances where the lone work is in a high-risk situation, there should be a greater level of supervision imposed.
Training is Key
With training in mind, it is vital to ensure adequate training for risks is applied to maintain healthy and safe staff. This can include basic first aid, along with a first aid kit, fire safety and fire equipment training and how to cope with exposure to violence or aggression, will give lone workers the right skills and knowledge to be able to handle these risks.
As with any risk assessments for employees, to ensure you’re complying with Health and Safety Legislation regular monitoring and re-evaluation of lone workers and the risks they face also plays an important role in ensuring their safety.