Lone working - what do I need to know?

Introduction
A lone worker is a person at work on his or her own without close or direct supervision. It means that they cannot be seen or heard by another person. It may include those who work in a specific area or building. As part of any good safety management system risk assessments should be carried out on employees, to ensure compliance with legislation and to reduce any risks which may arise from lone working. In most cases, working alone is not hazardous. However, the risks will depend on location, type of activity, interaction with the public or the consequences of an emergency, accident, injury or sudden illness.

Legislation
No specific piece of legislation covers lone working. However, employers have duties towards lone workers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work (MHSW) Regulations 1999.

Who can be at risk?

Lone workers can be found in a variety of situations, such as:

  • Being alone at the premises e.g. security or caretaking personnel;
  • People working separately from others, such as an IT engineer in a vast data centre;
  • People working outside normal working hours; and
  • Those working away from their office, for example maintenance engineers and sales representatives.

Lone working risk assessment
Employers have a duty to identify the risks associated with lone working and put suitable measures in place to eliminate or control the risks where necessary. Every employer should perform a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of employees and this should consider the lone working aspect where applicable.  A suitable and sufficient assessment will be one which identifies any hazards and then evaluates the risks.  A competent person should carry out the risk assessment, however, it is important that the employees and their representatives are consulted regarding the hazards and risks.

What are the hazards?
When identifying the specific risks of lone working, several hazards need to be considered, such as:

  • Workplace hazards, including remote areas, laboratories, workshops and confined spaces;
  • The processes involved, for example, work on electrical systems or working at height;
  • The equipment used; and
  • Situations of violence, individual capability and gender.

What control measures can be put in place?
If lone working is unavoidable effective and specific control measures need to be implemented. These may include:

  • Increased communication e.g. regular contact, mobile phones;
  • Increased supervision through periodic site visits to the worker;
  • Checks on the completion of the task;
  • Automatic and manual warning devices, such as motion sensors and panic buttons;
  • Specific information training, especially on emergency procedures;
  • Personal safety training; and
  • Increased security, such as CCTV and secure access.

This guide is of a general nature; specific advice can be obtained from Assurity Consulting. Assurity Consulting is the UK's leading independent compliance consultancy specialising in workplace health, safety and environmental solutions. We have over 30 years' experience of helping customers of all sizes, from across all sectors, manage their compliance responsibilities, making sure that their organisation is compliant, their employees are safe, their processes are cost effective and their management team is in control.

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