Lone Working - Advice for Employers

  • Posted on: 13 October 2014
  • By: admin

Lone working is on the increase here in the UK as more and more processes are automated and an increasing amount of work is outsourced.  Lone workers are an especially vulnerable group and employers may find it more challenging to crease a healthy and safe working environment for these employees.

Employers are legally required to think about and deal with any health and safety risks before people are allowed to work alone on premises.  Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all of their employees.  They also have a similar responsibility for the health and safety of any contractors or self-employed people undertaking work for them.

Lone workers are those who work by themselves or without any direct supervision and generally fall into two categories – those who work in fixed establishments and mobile workers.

Fixed Establishment Workers

  • A person working alone in a small workshop, petrol station, kiosk or shop
  • People working from home other than in low-risk, office type work
  • People working alone for long periods, e.g. in factories, leisure centres, warehouses
  • People working outside of normal office hours, e.g. cleaners, security, maintenance and repair staff

Mobile Workers

  • Workers involved in construction, repair and maintenance, plant installation and cleaning work
  • Forestry and agricultural workers
  • Service workers including postal staff, medical and social workers, estate agents, engineers, sales or service reps visiting commercial and domestic premises

Steps Employers must take to Control Risks

Employers are legally required to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary.  This must include:

Involving workers when considering potential risks and measure to control them

  • Taking steps to ensure the removal of risks where possible or the setting in place of control measures – for example careful selection of work equipment to ensure the worker is able to undertake all aspects of the work safely.
  • Providing training, instruction and supervision
  • Regularly reviewing risk assessments

An employer may need to accept some limitations:

  • Where a lone worker is working in another employer’s premises  informing that employer of the risks and necessary control measures
  • Being aware that some tasks may be too dangerous or difficult to be carried out by a single person
  • If a risk assessment has determined that it is not possible for the work to be carried out safely by a lone worker, making arrangement to provide help or back up.

An effective risk assessment will allow employers to make the right decisions on the level of supervision required.  There are certain high risk activities where at least one other person should be present.  For example:

  • Working in or near exposed live electricity conductors
  • Working in a confined space where a supervisor may be to be present together with somebody in a rescue role
  • Working in the health and social care industry dealing with unpredictable clients’ behaviour and situations.

Employers should also be aware of any specific law that prohibits lone working that applies to their industry.