Lone working can occur both in and out of the workplace. Examples of lone working include:
- People working alone in premises, such as shops or kiosks
- People working outside of normal working hours, such as cleaners, security staff, maintenance or repair staff
- Those who work separately from others, such as research staff, or those in leisure centres, warehouses etc
- Agricultural and forestry workers
- Service workers, such as postal staff, social workers, doctors and nurses, drivers, estate agents, etc
- Those involved in trades such as electrical repairs, plumbing, lift repairs, painting and decorating etc.
It will often be safe to work alone. However, the law requires employers to think about and deal with any health and safety risks before people are allowed to do so.
Completing a lone working risk assessment will help to identify the hazards specific to your employees and decide what controls you need to put in place.
Things you should consider include:
- Is there safe access and egress for one person?
- Can one person handle any necessary temporary access equipment, such as portable ladders?
- Can one person handle all the necessary machinery and goods?
- Are any chemicals or hazardous substances used that may pose a risk to the worker?
- Does the work involve lifting objects too large for one person?
- Is there a risk of violence?
- Are young, pregnant or disabled workers particularly at risk if they work alone?
- If the lone worker’s first language is not English, are suitable arrangements in place to ensure clear communication, especially in an emergency?
- Is there a risk of violence or aggression?
- Do lone workers have any medical conditions that make lone working unsuitable?
- Can suitable levels of supervision be provided?
- What happens if the lone worker become ill, has an accident or there is an emergency including first aid arrangements?
- Are special lone working alarms or communication devices needed?
As well as physical risks to a lone workers safety there is also a significant risk to lone workers in relation to mental well-being. Lone workers are particularly at risk as they do not have the same face to face support network as those who work with others.
It’s important to maintain regular contact with your lone workers, where face to face meetings cannot be arranged employees should take advantage of technology available. As well as email and telephone, video calling can help to maintain a more personal connection.
Training is very important, particularly where where there is limited supervision to control, guide and help in uncertain situations. Training may also be crucial in enabling people to cope in unexpected circumstances and with potential exposure to violence and aggression.