“Work alone is noble.” But is it safe?

Many employees often find themselves the only one left in the office at the end of a busy day or driving to see a customer alone. If this situation sounds familiar it is likely that your employees are lone working. If your employees work alone you are required to consider, and then deal with, any health and safety risks that this exposes them to.

It will often be safe to work alone. However, the law requires employers to think about and deal with any health and safety risks before people are allowed to do so.

Things you could consider to help ensure lone workers are not put at risk include:

  • assessing areas of risk including violence, manual handling, the medical suitability of the individual to work alone and whether the workplace itself presents a risk to them
  • requirements for training, levels of experience and how best to monitor and supervise them
  • making sure you know what is happening, including having systems in place to keep in touch with them

What types of job might require people to work alone? 

  • Working alone in a small workshop, petrol station, kiosk or shop
  • People working on their own outside normal hours, e.g. cleaners and security, maintenance or repair staff
  • Agricultural workers
  • Service workers, including postal staff, social and medical workers, engineers, estate agents, and sales or service representatives visiting domestic and commercial premises
  • Driving on company business

So what should you be doing?

Employers have a duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary. This must include:

  • Involving workers when considering potential risks and measures to control them. Many companies trust their employees and don’t want to appear as though they are checking up on them, however, if something happened how would you know?
  • Taking steps to ensure risks are removed where possible, or putting in place control measures, e.g. carefully selecting work equipment to ensure the worker is able to perform the required tasks safely.
  • Instruction, training and supervision. It is important that all employees understand the procedures in place for lone working that have been designed to keep them safe. For example, calling to check in every so often or locking the office door when staying late.
  • Reviewing risk assessments periodically or when there has been a significant change in working practice.
  • Being aware that some tasks may be too difficult or dangerous to be carried out by an unaccompanied worker, for example, working in confined spaces.
  • Where a lone worker is working at another employer’s workplace, assessing the additional risks involved and making sure your employee will be safe in that situation. For example, social workers or an engineer visiting a person’s home.
  • When a risk assessment shows it is not possible for the work to be conducted safely by a lone worker, addressing that risk by making arrangements to provide help or back-up. Risk assessment should help employers decide on the right level of supervision.

What happens if a person becomes ill, has an accident, or there is an emergency?

Your assessment of the risks should identify foreseeable events. Emergency procedures should be established and employees trained in them. For example, it may be decided that mobile workers should carry mobile phones, personal alarms or first-aid kits.

If you’re concerned about your lone workers and need some advice, contact ProAktive on 01302 341 344.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

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