Four factors for lone workers and their employers to consider

  • Posted on: 22 September 2014
  • By: admin

We're all aware that some jobs are more dangerous than others - for example, the construction industry is responsible for the majority of work related injuries in the UK.  Working for the emergency services or the armed forces is likely to present more of a risk than working at a desk in an office.  However, it's not just the sector that determines the level of risk, it's also the occupational group in which you work and exposure to violence at work also depends on the situations and circumstances under which a person works.  Working alone increases the risk and has added vulnerabilities.

The UK's Health and Safety Executive defines a lone worker as somebody who works alone without direct or close supervision.  Lone workers can include those who:

  • work separately from others but on the same premises or work outside of normal hours - for example security staff, cleaning staff
  • work from a fixed base, for example an individual working alone on a premises (such as petrol stations, small shops, kiosks, etc.)
  • work away from the organization's fixed base - for example environment inspectors, maintenance workers, health care workers, outreach workers)
  • work at home
  • mobile workers (taxi drivers, bus drivers, etc.)

Modern technology has led to a rapid increase in the number of people who work alone - as automation takes over in factories and offices across the land, solitary work is becoming more frequent.  An increase in outplacement, teleworking and sub-contracting has also increased the figures for lone workers.  Rapid development in the field of interactive communication technologies has resulted in a rise in the number of one-person operations and businesses. 

Although lone working per se is does not increase the risk of violence, it's generally thought to increase the vulnerability of workers, depending on the situation and location where the work is taking place.

Those who employ loan worker have a legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act) to ensure as far as it is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of every one of their employees.  There are several factors that employers need to consider to ensure compliance with the HSW Act:

  • Job Design - such as requiring the worker to carry out regular self-risk assessments or doubling up wherever possible.
  • Work Environment and Equipment - this means the use of effective communication systems and devices, personal alarms, CCTV, building alarms, etc.
  • Effective Communication - communication is not just about the hardware used to communicate but also about systems to keep track of where people are, checks, an early warning flagging system, a policy of reporting every incident, no matter how small.
  • Training and Information - Training in areas such as conflict resolution, risk assessments, personal safety or violence protection training and systems in place to ensure a rapid escape if possible.

All of these factors are complex and will be covered in our news posts over the coming weeks so that lone workers and those that employ lone workers can learn more about taking a holistic approach to staying safe at work.