The employer of a lone worker has a duty of care to safeguard their workforce . The law requires all employers to make sure their employees are ‘reasonably safe’ whilst at work. To do so, employers must put measures in place to reduce or remove risk. Lone working is increasingly common, according to the Office of National statistics, around 6 million employees work alone every day. It benefits both employers and employees by providing flexibility, reducing costs, increasing productivity and give employers more flexibility. However, working alone can make employees more vulnerable to attack or accident.
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.
What is classed as lone working?
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).
The law and regulations
There are 5 key pieces of legislation which apply to lone working:
- Health and Safety at Work Act
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations
- The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations
- The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations
This legislation clearly places responsibility on employers for health, safety and welfare of employees – including lone workers. Employers must make sure employees have a safe working environment, identify any special health and safety risks, and reduce or remove them as far as reasonably practicable.
Whilst employers have the greatest responsibility with regard to safeguarding lone working, employees also have an important role to play. This should be outlined in any lone working policy.
Employers are responsible for:
- Carrying out risk assessments
- Implementing a lone working policy
- Ensuring policies are regularly reviewed and updated
- Providing training, including comprehensive induction
- Communicating information effectively
- Acting on any lone worker incident reports
- Providing supervision and support
Employees are responsible for:
- Attending training
- Reading and understanding relevant policies
- Following policies and procedures
- Using personal protective equipment if provided
- Carrying a personal safety device if provided
- Taking care of personal safety and that of others
- Reporting any incidents where they feel at risk
- Reporting any accidents, near misses or acts of aggression
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.
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.