Lone Workers - Your Rights and Responsibilities
There are now estimated to be more than six million lone workers in the UK, a number that has been steadily rising for several years. Technological advances such as smartphones and communications technology in recent years has revolutionised the way in which we work, enabling remote connection to business networks that allow more and more of us to work from home. It’s not just those who work from home that are considered to be lone workers. Automation of processes, combined with a 24 hour lifestyle has led to more people working in business premises alone and outside of normal working hours. While it’s not against the law to work alone, there are legal requirements that employers need to take into account in order to deal with any health and safety risks when people work alone.
Recent research has revealed that while 46% of people in full time jobs will identify themselves as lone workers, the term actually applies to a massive 71% when we consider those who work alone when working late in the office or travelling to meetings on public transport.
Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees, including contractors and self-employed people carrying out work for them. The employer’s responsibility to ensure that an employee is reasonably safe cannot be delegated or transferred to another person, including the employee.
Employees have a responsibility for their own safety and to cooperate with their employers in meeting their legal obligations. For example, if the employer sets out a procedure that’s been designed to minimise risks, the employee should follow this procedure at all times.
An employer with five or more workers will not only have to carry out risk assessments, they will also need to record any significant findings and list the control measures that are put in place to manage any risks identified.
In certain industries there are industry-specific restrictions on tasks which may be carried out by a lone worker – these include transporting explosives and fumigation work. Employers must be aware of any restrictions that are specific to their particular industry.
Lone working by its very nature cannot be supervised, however, a certain amount of supervision is necessary. The level of supervision required depends on the work being carried out and the risk determined by the employer. The greater the risk, the greater the level of supervision that should be provided.
In some cases, this supervision involves regular “check ins” with a manager or regular site visits by a manager. In cases where large amounts of money are likely to be on the premises, a “check in” phone call is not always deemed necessary to ensure safety. IN cases where a robbery does occur, the employee should first notify the police of the incident and then notify the employer or manager.
Any employer who employs lone workers should have procedures in place that will allow employees to respond to emergencies. This will usually involves some sort of training for best practice in identifiable emergency situations such as a fire, a gas leak, discovery of a break in or a bomb threat.
Employees should have access to first aid equipment and any mobile workers (who are often lone workers) should carry a small first aid kit that’s suitable for treating minor injuries. A risk assessment may also indicate that the lone employees should be given first aid training.
Although many employers of lone workers will have installed systems that trigger emergency alarms (whether they are silent alarms, personal alarms or electronic inactivity systems), there is no specific legal requirement to install these alarm systems.