The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance defines a lone worker as someone who works by his/herself without close or direct supervision.
A few examples include –
- People who work, say, in a petrol station or shop
- People who work from home
- Mobile workers outside of their fixed base such as postal staff, estate agents, community care workers
- Professionals visiting domestic and commercial premises
- People who work separately from others (reception workers or those who work outside normal business hours)
Some industries may prohibit lone working such as fumigation work, diving operations, vehicles carrying explosives.
Lone working is not against the law and is generally safe practice. However, the worker has to take reasonable care of themselves and employers have obligations under the law to consider the health and safety risks for those who do work alone.
The employer has a duty to assess risks and to take steps to avoid or minimise risks where possible. These steps may include:
- Management & supervision
The risk assessment should be reviewed periodically and should assess:
- Whether there are any tasks too dangerous to be carried out by a lone worker
- Any appropriate arrangements to provide help or back-up
Employers have a duty to consider any foreseeable emergencies and consider factors such as:
- Is the workplace a specific risk to a lone worker
- Is there a safe way in and out for one person
- Is there machinery involved
- Are chemicals involved
- Is it necessary to lift heavy objects
Training is particularly important for lone workers given there is limited supervision and to enable the worker to cope with any unexpected circumstances.
There should be some supervision and monitoring and again this should be included in any risk assessment.
Perhaps regular contact between the worker and supervisor is required by phones or other means. Is a manual or automated warning device necessary? Should the lone worker call into their supervisor or office once their task has been completed?
An emergency procedure should be agreed and communicated to your employees. The best way of doing this is by way of a written policy.
If your business has one or more lone workers then it may be relevant to have a very simple Lone Worker policy in place. This can be included as a stand-alone policy or could be included in your Staff Handbook.
You may want to consider revising all your employment policies and procedures to make sure you are as up to date as you can be regarding obligations to your workforce.