The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’. This could be for example, a security guard working in an office on a night shift, Or social and health workers who visit people in their homes, delivery drivers, tradespeople, homeworkers or shop-workers. Even office workers can find themselves occasionally alone in the office.
Lone workers include those who work:
- from a fixed base, such as one person working alone on a premises (eg, shops, petrol stations etc);
- separately at the same premises (eg security staff) or work outside normal hours;
- away from a fixed base (eg, maintenance workers, health care workers, environment inspectors);
- at home (homeworkers); and
- mobile (eg, taxi drivers).
Due to changes in technology and the way we communicate, the number of people working alone is increasing. Likewise, many factories and even offices now used automated systems and the practice of sub-contracting and remote working has also added to the growth of lone working. Some people will work alone for the majority of their working time but there is a greater number of people who work alone part of the time. Almost all of us, at one time or another, will probably have found ourselves working alone. Working alone does not mean there is definitely a higher risk to safety, but working alone does make workers more vulnerable. Moreover, this vulnerability will depend on the type of situation in which the lone work is being carried out.
Protecting lone workers
As an employer you have a duty to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the safety of lone workers in your organisation. There are numerous ways lone workers can be vulnerable. As an employer you must put a policy in place to migrate risks. This includes:
Accidents – falls, trips etc, road accidents, work related accidents
Illness – if someone is alone and they suddenly fall ill, what happens? They could faint or lose consciousness.
Attack – working alone makes you vulnerable and an easy target.
The HSE have released some of the most common causes of accidents suffered by employees at work. Therein causes of death of a worker during 2016/17 were:
Struck by moving vehicle: According to the HSE statistics 31 workers lost their lives in 2016/17 due to a moving vehicle.
Falls from a height: This resulted in 25 fatal injuries last year. It has claimed on average 40 lives between 2012/13 – 2016/17.
Struck by moving object: Statistics from 2016/17 suggests that 20 workers have died due to this.
These are the top 3 causes of accidents. Other types of accidents can and do happen. It is essential organisations assess the nature of the work, the environments, the employees fitness and expertise before allowing any lone working.
Some employees may have medical conditions which increase the risk of lone working. In this instance, employers should seek medical advice and factor this into any lone working risk assessment. Likewise, consideration must be given to how employees day to day work and safety could be compromised by medical emergencies, and steps that can be put in place to reduce and remove risk.
Statistics from the British Crime Survey indicate that 150 lone workers are verbally and physically attacked every day. These attacks are not specific to any particular industry or job role, but are happening everywhere people work alone. However, some roles are naturally more prone to risk; roles which involve difficult and tense communication with the public, are more likely to experience verbal assault. By fully analysing the role of your employees and carrying out a robust risk assessment, these risks can be reduced.
Engage in Learning provide an engaging and robust eLearning Lone Worker training course. This course will explore all the legal responsibilities, the possible risks associated with lone working and steps you must take to minimise risk.