If you have workers who regularly work on their own, you need to ensure that you fully document your health and safety arrangements to ensure that all the measures required to keep your staff safe are in place. This article takes you through some of the arrangements that need to be considered and which could form part of a simple lone working policy.
The health and safety executive (HSE’s) definition states: “Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”. Lone working may take place off-site, on-site and out of hours, on a large site or in remote areas. The HSE has produced guidance on lone working and this can be found here
When staff work alone, additional risks may arise in comparison with those who work with others. When working alone, the risks of an accident may directly increase, e.g. because there is no one to assist with manual handling, no one to act as a second pair of eyes during a safety-critical task, a higher likelihood of assault, or no supervision to ensure that safety procedures are followed.
Lone working also carries the risk that there will be no one available to assist in an emergency. This could mean that a major injury or medical incident is not attended to in time, or that a less serious injury becomes more serious through lack of prompt medical attention.
Several workers could fall into this category, but the following could apply:
Lone working is not covered by any specific legislation. However, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) require employers to carry out a risk assessment of work activities. This process includes identifying “any group of employees especially at risk”.
You can choose to undertake a separate risk assessment for lone working activities or take it into account within other risk assessments for activities within the workplace. Whichever method you choose, your risk assessment should identify the hazards posed with lone working and the controls that need to be in place to ensure that the risks are adequately controlled. The following are some typical hazards to consider:
Controls that need to be considered to mitigate the risks could include:
These are just some of the control measures that might need to be implemented and would depend on the specific activities that are undertaken. Some activities cannot be undertaken when lone working; for example, work within a confined space or on high voltage electrical equipment requires additional colleagues for back up and rescue.
This video from the National Business Crime Centre highlights several of the controls mentioned and applies them in different work situations.
Devices can be used to help with the monitoring of lone workers, including their location, activity level and need for assistance.
Many options use a mobile phone app which saves purchasing separate devices. As an example,
If they then fail to check out, and respond to a reminder, the alarm would be raised via a monitoring system. The software is set up in advance with details of who to call and location information. These apps generally include panic buttons and may have a means of raising a discreet alarm; some come with “man-down” software which reacts to a lack of movement. There are also products which could overcome a patchy mobile signal.
You might only require a panic device. Some of these will provide a geographical location to the manager receiving the alarm and can operate without a mobile phone signal. There are also panic buttons with more advanced functionality such as being able to speak to an operator. For a solution suitable for a single site, you might choose a radio-based system with individual pager/panic devices carried by each worker. This could be more practical as it’s potentially easier to raise an alarm via a small robust call button than a smartphone.
Please Note: We have produced an information sheet on the above types of devices so that you can see what is available on the market. You can download a copy here.
Under the MHSWR there is a requirement for employers of five or more employees to write down their health and safety arrangements. Depending on the size of your organisation and the activities that require lone working you may be able to include your arrangements within your health and safety policy. If on the other hand, your arrangements are more complex it might be prudent to have a separate lone working policy. Remember this policy does not need to be complex, just keep it simple.
We have supported many organisation with developing policies and procedures, risk assessments and safe systems of work that record their health and safety arrangements. If you would like help with your lone working arrangements or any other aspect of health and safety do get in touch. We also offer a free 15 minute consultation without any obligation.