SureSafe offers a range of lone worker devices designed to keep lone workers, or ‘at risk’ workers, safe. SureSafe offers tailored solutions to fit both your employees risk needs, as well as fit your organisation's operational needs. SureSafe allows employees to call for help in an emergency, tracks their location via GPS in case they get into any difficulty, can detect falls should employees have an accident, and helps you satisfy your workplace health and safety requirements.
What must the employer of a lone worker do?Article by Daniel Westhead
It’s estimated that approximately 20% of the UK’s workforce is comprised of lone workers – those who work without direct supervision for extended periods of time. This equates to around 8 million individuals.
And as businesses become more flexible post pandemic – employing staff remotely and increasing home and hybrid working - these figures are likely to increase.
But what must organisations do to protect their lone workers and keep them safe? While many industries may already have established lone worker protocols in place, countless others would have only recently considered remote or lone working and may not yet have considered the potential impact on employees.
With this in mind, we explore what the employer of a lone worker must do to keep them safe.
Who is classified as a lone worker?
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) lone workers are defined as people who work by themselves without direct or close supervision.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that a lone worker must be in a completely separate location or office to the rest of their team or manager. They may simply work separately from others, for example within a specific location of a factory or warehouse.
Is someone working from home, or a remote employee considered a lone worker?
Yes, they could be. Someone working from home alone, and without “close supervision” could be classified as a home worker.
As an employer you have the same responsibility for the health and safety of your employees who work from home as you do any other team member.
If you have a remote workforce, it’s wise to look at specific procedures to keep them safe, taking into account issues such as mental health, and also – if they also travel to client or customer meetings, your processes for checking in on them afterwards, as, unlike in the office where you know if someone has not returned, this may not always be the case with a home worker.
The law on lone working in the UK
While there is no specific legislation that particularly applies to remote workers, employers should be aware that that under Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 they are responsible for the health and safety of all of their workers, including contractors and freelance staff.
Additionally, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999): require employers to conduct an assessment of risks associated with lone workers to ensure that they do not face more risk than any other employee.
That means that, as an employer you must consider and take steps to mitigate any health and safety hazards associated with lone workers as in some circumstances they may be at a higher risk.
The best way to do this is to conduct risk assessments related to lone working roles and then take steps to put in place a lone working policy, emergency procedures, and also to train your staff to understand these policies and procedures.
It’s also worth noting, that in a climate where in many industries there are more jobs available than people to fill them – having a clear and supportive lone working policy in place also makes your employees feel more valued and safer – potentially leading to increased staff retention.
How to undertake a risk assessment for your lone workers
Not all lone workers will face the same issues. For example, an HGV driver may face risks associated with driving for long periods alone, which would not be a specific risk for an employee who does not drive as part of their role.
Therefore, the first step in undertaking a risk assessment is to identify hazards specific to an individual or group of workers based on their job role.
You then decide which individuals may face harm – and how.
Particular risks to many lone workers many include:
- accidents or emergencies arising out of the work, including inadequate provision of first aid
- sudden illnesses
- inadequate provision of rest, hygiene and welfare facilities
- physical violence from members of the public and/or intruders
- stress and mental health (without adequate support)
When you have identified the risks, you need to evaluate them and make decisions on the precautions that can be taken. In some circumstances it may be that your risk assessment finds that some tasks are just too dangerous to be carried out by a single individual and therefore you will need to make provision for additional resource.
Ensure that you make detailed recording of your findings which you will build into your lone working policy.
As we have seen over the past two years – things can change very quickly so it’s vital that you keep you risk assessments and policies up to date to allow for changes to people’s roles and the risks they face.
Personal alarms for lone workers
One very simple way to help to mitigate risk for lone workers is to incorporate the wearing of personal alarms.
Lone workers alarms help to keep employees safe whether they are working alone and have no one to call for help, suffer from specific medical conditions or work in high-risk roles, such as those in construction or manufacturing.
A personal alarm alone should not be relied on to keep workers safe – instead your policies and procedures should help to eliminate risk.
However, having an alarm will help your workers to get help quickly should the worst happen.
Take the SureSafeGo as an example.
In addition to providing assistance at the touch of a button, it includes GPS tracking so that you are aware of where your employees are, and also automatic fall detection – so if a team member falls ill or is attacked, help can be on the way quickly.
Risk of violence
While in itself lone working does not mean an increased risk of violence, it does mean that should violence occur that a lone worker is more vulnerable. After all, there is no one else on hand to get help.
This is particularly true for workers entering private homes or work in areas which are particularly isolated, such as security workers or housing workers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines violence as 'any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work – this includes verbal threats.
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
The best ways in which you can help your employees who are at potential risk of violence is to provide them with full training on conflict resolution and avoidance.
However, it is also wise to equip any lone worker at risk of violence with practical ways of getting help should an incident occur, including a lone worker alarm.
Lone working and mental health
Lone working can contribute to work related stress and impact mental health. In fact, research by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation found that 64% of lone workers face psychological distress, which is significantly higher than employees who work alongside their colleagues.
When someone is not in close contact with colleagues and line managers it can be harder to spot the signs of stress and make it more difficult for them to feel that they can reach out for support.
Therefore, when creating a lone worker policy, it’s important to include measures that can help to protect the mental health of lone workers and support them should they feel distress.
Overall, creating a comprehensive and thoughtful lone working policy and regularly updating your risk assessments will help to protect the safety of your staff, make them feel valued and help your business to thrive.
Call SureSafe's team of Lone Working experts on 0800 112 3201 to learn more about how you can help keep your team safe when at work.