The HSE defines loneworkers as ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’.
According to the Workplace Law Special Report ‘Loneworking 2008’, written with contributions from Suzy Lamplugh Trust, loneworkers can encompass:
- people who work separately from others in factories, warehouses, shopping centres etc;
- people working on their own in petrol stations, shops, small workshops, homeworkers, security guards; and/or
- mobile workers working away from their fixed base, e.g. engineers, sales representatives, breakdown mechanics, social workers, estate agents; the list is not exhaustive.
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Although employers have the same responsibility towards staff who work alone and/or away from the workplace as they do to all workers, there are different risks involved in working alone. Consider:
- Access to and egress from the place of work. Can the lone worker get to and from the workplace safely? Is the work being carried out in a confined space?
- Nature of the work. What sort of work is being undertaken? Are lone workers dealing with the public where they might face aggressive or violent behaviour? Do they have to carry heavy items or work in outdoor weather conditions?
- Location of work. Where does the work take place? Where work is carried out by mobile workers or off site, the employer will have little control over first aid provision and emergency procedures. Does work take place at height?
- Time of work. When does the work take place? Are there any increased risks related to the time of day, such as pub closing time or rush hour?
- Use of work equipment. What, if any, work equipment do they need to use? Use of electrical equipment, machinery and vehicles will increase the risk.
- People. Including age, maturity, experience, health and fitness, and general state of mind. Where young people or new and expectant mothers are concerned, the risks will be increased.
An evaluation of the risks highlights the control measures required to ensure work is carried out in a suitably safe manner and may require:
- redesign of the task to eliminate the need for loneworking, e.g. changing shift patterns to implement a buddy system where two people work together at all times
- provision of information, instruction and training, including training in the safe use of work equipment, or how to handle aggressive behaviour when dealing with the public
- establishment of communication and supervision procedures, to ensure that a manager is able to contact the worker at regular intervals; to make sure that arrangements in the case of an emergency have been put in place; and to check that a loneworker has arrived back safely once work has been completed
- provision of mobile first aid facilities, to ensure that loneworkers can deal with minor injuries themselves
- health surveillance of loneworkers, at regular intervals, to ensure that workers are fit and healthy to carry out the tasks required of them
Workplace Law, Loneworking 2008: Special Report www.workplacelaw.net/bookshop/specialReports/id/647
‘Lone Workers – An Employers’ Guide’ provides employers with easy-to-follow advice about British Standard BS8484 – the Code of Practice for the provision of Lone Worker Services – and what they should look for when sourcing a supplier.