The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as “those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”. This is, of course, quite a broad definition, and for many people lone working is a common part of their working routine.
The term may be applied to people working across a wide range of different sectors and in a variety of different environments including, among the examples listed by HSE:
- A petrol station attendant working by themselves
- Cleaners, maintenance or security staff
- Agriculture and forestry workers
- Postal workers
- Construction workers engaged in a variety of construction, maintenance, repair or installation tasks
- Delivery drivers
Q: What are the hazards of lone working?
A: Lone workers are faced both with distinctive hazards and also similar hazards to those faced by other workers. However, even in the latter cases, these hazards are likely to be riskier given that the individual faced with them has to do so on their own. Common hazards of lone working include:
- Accidents and emergencies in the absence of assistance or first aid equipment
- Violence and abuse from members of the public
- Robbery and theft
- Sudden illness
- Difficulties in communication
- Inadequate facilities
Q: How are employers responsible for lone worker safety?
A: It is incumbent upon employers, as part of their basic duty of care to employees while at work, to take proper account of risks facing lone workers. While there is no specific legal provision for lone working, they are expected to carry out risk assessments and take appropriate action where necessary.
Employers are expected to take a number of steps to ensure the safety of lone workers. These include ensuring appropriate instruction, training and supervision where necessary, and putting adequate control measures in place. In addition, risk assessments must be revisited periodically or when “a significant change in working practice” has taken place.
Q: What is a lone worker policy?
A: A lone worker policy provides lone workers with guidance to help them deal with the specific risks they may face in their particular line of work. Having a lone worker policy in place is not a legal requirement, but it can significantly help to improve lone worker safety and contribute to the overall creation of a strong safety culture.
There are a number of areas which should be covered by a lone worker policy, including:
- An explanation of the rationale behind the policy and why it has been put in place.
- A definition of lone working, laying out clearly who the policy is intended for and who it applies to.
- Clear instructions on where particular responsibilities lie, including employees’ own responsibilities.
- Risk situations, broken down by different roles, along with advice on how to handle these.
Q: How does lone worker tracking improve safety?
A: Many employers use lone worker tracking technology to help them monitor the location of employees working in the field. Lone worker GPS tracking – whether through mobile apps or other devices – allows firms to determine exactly where individual employees are, what time they arrived on the job site, how long they have spent there, and so on.
Fleet tracking technology can provide a range of proactive solutions so that business are better able to protect lone workers. For example, the technology can help businesses:
- Identify if an employee hasn’t arrived at an expected location when they were due to
- See that an employee has been at a particular location for an extended period of time
- Proactively manage maintenance to reduce the risk of mechanical issues across its fleet
- React to dangerous situations when a panic button is pressed