Lone workers are hugely common within the UK with almost 8 million of them making up 22% of the workforce – and this figure is constantly on the rise.
Lone working includes remote workers (even those working from home), night/out of office hours workers, contractors and the self-employed, i.e. anyone who does not work under direct supervision and spends some or all of their working day alone would be classed as a lone worker.
These types of workers are extremely vulnerable with statistics from the British Crime Survey highlighting that 150 lone workers are attacked every day with the risks being higher for those who work in a public-facing role.
You have a duty of care towards all of your employees, even those that may not be under your direct supervision during working hours, so it is important that you are aware of the risks and hazards that they face which often vary from your other supervised employees.
You must implement and communicate a Lone Working Policy to the relevant employees and conduct a risk assessment specifically for those workers. This will highlight the hazards that they may face and enable you to create procedures and precautions that reduce these risks.
One of the biggest risks is that if a lone worker falls ills, has an accident or gets injured in some way, there is no one else around to ensure that they get the emergency care they need such as first aid or being taken to hospital. A way around this would be to put a system in place by which the lone working employee can easily get in touch with you or another worker to inform them that an incident has taken place, such as a direct contact number or a safety device.
There is so much great technology out there now designed specifically for lone workers including easy to use and affordable apps, so it’s worth doing some further research on this to find something that works for your business.
The only sort of situations that this would not be effective would be if the worker has a fall or an accident that leaves them unconscious or unable to get to a phone/device. This is why it’s important that you check in with your lone working employees regularly throughout their shift.
Introduce a system where you call or message them every hour to make sure that they are safe, and if they do not answer the phone or call/message back within ten minutes, you can use this as a sign that they may be in danger and someone should go and physically check in on them.
In public-facing roles, such as caretakers or shopkeepers, there is a risk of physical or verbal abuse and one precaution that not only helps deter bad behaviour but also helps workers feel safe is to put visible surveillance cameras on site.
You can also look into implementing a panic button that is easily accessible so that if there is an incident they can simply press the button and the emergency services will instantly be notified.
There is also safety equipment that should be provided to lone workers such as Single Person First Aid Kits if they are not on the premises where a kit is readily available, and any PPE that they may need to carry out their work safely.
Another risk to consider is the safety of those who travel alone as part of their work because, as well as the risks already mentioned, they are constantly on the move so it is important that someone is always aware of where they are. This can be done with constant communication and contact but also having a shared calendar that the lone worker can use to notify you as to their exact whereabouts throughout the day. That way, if there is an incident or you don’t hear from them, you will know where they are or at least where they should be.
For those who are working in one location, you will need to provide them with safety training to ensure they understand the procedures for things like fire evacuations, incident reporting, manual handling etc.
You can even put restrictions in place, for example, employees who stay in the office a couple of hours later than everyone else and are alone cannot use any machinery or work at height. This will completely remove the dangers of certain higher risk activities and give you peace of mind that those employees are relatively safe.
If you find that your premises or business is too high-risk for anyone to be working alone (i.e. during out of office hours) and there are no safety measures available to put in place such as a security guard, surveillance cameras, safety device etc. then the best thing to do is either have that employee work from home or in a public workspace where the risks are significantly lower.
The safety of all of your employees should always be a top priority when conducting a risk assessment – do not forget about your lone workers. For further information and a better understanding of this issue, take a look at our Online Lone Working Training Course