A lone worker is an employee who performs an activity in isolation from other workers without close or direct supervision. Anybody who works alone, including contractors, self-employed people and employee, is classed as a lone worker.
Lone workers include:
- People in fixed establishments where only one person works on the premises, e.g. in small workshops, kiosks, petrol stations, shops and home-workers
- People working separately from others, e.g. in factories, warehouses, some research and training establishments, leisure centres or fairgrounds
- People who works outside normal hours, e.g. cleaners, security, special production, maintenance or repair staff, etc.
- People who works away from their fixed base, e.g. on construction, plant installation, maintenance and cleaning work, electrical repairs, lift repairs, painting and decorating, vehicle recovery, etc.
- Agricultural and forestry workers
- Service workers, e.g. rent collectors, postal staff, social workers, home helps, district nurses, pest control workers, drivers, engineers, architects, estate agents, sales representatives and similar professionals visiting domestic and commercial premises.
Such staff may be exposed to risk because there is no-one to assist them and so a risk assessment may be required.
Guide to protect lone workers –
Safety duties of lone workers
Although the employers holds the main responsibility for protecting the safety and health of lone workers. Nonetheless, lone workers themselves have a responsibility to help their employer fulfill this duty, and so they must:
- Take reasonable care to look after their own safety and health
- Safeguard the safety and health of other people affected by their work
- Co-operate with their employer’s safety and health procedures
- Use tools and other equipment properly, in accordance with any relevant safety instructions and training they have been given.
- Not misuse equipment provided for their safety and health
- Report all accidents, injuries, near-misses and other dangerous occurrences
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers must manage the risk to lone workers. The employer must think about who will be involved and which hazards could harm those working alone.
- Train, supervise and monitor lone workers: A lone worker must be trained in personal safety or violence prevention. This will help the workers as follows:
- How to recognise situations where they feel at risk
- How to use conflict resolution techniques or leave the workplace
- keep in touch with them and respond to any incident: Put procedures in place that enable direct contact with the lone worker so their manager can recognise signs of stress as early as possible. If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. This can affect their performance and potentially their stress levels and mental health.
When a lone worker will be at someone else’s workplace you must ask that employer about any risks and control measures to make sure they are protected.
Risks to consider
Risks that particularly affect lone workers include:
- Violence in the workplace: Lone working does not always mean a higher risk of violence, but it does make workers more vulnerable. The lack of nearby support makes it harder for them to prevent an incident.Some of the key workplace violence risks include:
- Late evening or early morning work, when fewer workers are around
- Lone workers, such as security staff, who have authority over customers and are enforcing rules.
- People affected by alcohol or drugs
- Carrying money or valuable equipment
- Stress and mental health or wellbeing: Lone working can cause work-related stress and affect people’s mental health. HSE’s Stress Management Standards should include the importance of relationships with, and support from, other workers.
- A person’s medical suitability to work alone: Some lone workers can have specific risks to their health. For example, lone HGV drivers have high physical and mental demands on them, with long periods behind the wheel. You should monitor their health and adapt drivers’ work to allow for any specific health needs. If you are unsure whether someone’s health condition means they are safe to work alone, get medical advice. Think about both routine work and possible emergencies that may put additional physical and mental burdens on the lone worker.
- The workplace itself, for example if it’s in a rural or isolated area
Managing risks to lone workers by employer
Here are some points of action:
- Training: Training is particularly important –
- Where there is limited supervision to control, guide and help in uncertain situations
- In enabling people to cope with unexpected situations, such as those involving violence
You should set limits on what can be done while working alone. Make sure workers are:
- Competent to deal with the requirements of the job
- Trained in using any technical solutions
- Able to recognise when they should get advice
- Monitoring and keeping in touch: You must monitor your lone workers and keep in touch with them. Make sure they understand any monitoring system and procedures you use. These may include:
- When supervisors should visit and observe lone workers
- Knowing where lone workers are, with pre-agreed intervals of regular contact, using phones, radios, email etc
- Other devices for raising the alarm, operated manually or automatically
- A reliable system to ensure a lone worker has returned to their base once they have completed their task.
Regularly test these systems and all emergency procedures to ensure lone workers can be contacted if a problem or emergency is identified.
- First aid and emergencies: Put emergency procedures in place and train lone workers in how to use them. Your risk assessment may indicate lone workers should:
- Carry first aid equipment
- Receive first aid training, including how to use first aid on themselves
- Have access to adequate first aid facilities
Emergency procedures should include guidance on how and when lone workers should contact their employer, including details of any emergency contact numbers.
General control measures to minimise the risk to lone workers
Some control measures may include:
- Communication: Mobile phone, Telephone or Radio
- Controlled periodic checks
- Automatic warning devices, e.g. Panic alarms, no movement alarms, automatic distress message systems, i.e. pre recorded message sent if not actively cancelled by operative, etc.
- Instruction and training in proper procedures, e.g. Code words for potentially violent situations when combined with mobile phone communication.
- Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Health surveillance
- First-aid kits and training
- Implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s)
- Locking and securing place of work
- Implementing correct incident reporting procedures
- Provision of counselling
Lone worker policy
A lone working safety policy is a guide that will set out your companies’ rules on working alone and help your employees to understand the risks they may face. Ultimately, your policy should aim to provide lone workers with practical advice and instruction on how to safely work alone.
See a step by step guide on how to develop a lone worker policy for your organization – Check here