Lone Working: What Are the Health and Safety Risks?

May 9, 2024

Lone Working: What Are the Health and Safety Risks?

Given how much the world of work has changed, it’s not surprising that more and more employees find themselves working alone, whether it’s in remote locations, working separately from other people or working away from a fixed base.

According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, you must manage the risk to lone workers. Although some businesses often overlook the safety of their remote workers, employers have the same health and safety responsibilities to remote workers as they do for their on-site or in-office workers.

In order to remain compliant and ensure staff health and safety, businesses need to offer supervision and training, in addition to putting appropriate control measures to protect the remote workers. In this article, we’ll explore the potential dangers of lone working and what employers can do to mitigate these risks and remain compliant.

Who are lone workers?

Lone workers are employees who perform their duties without close or direct supervision from colleagues or managers. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as “people who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.” This can include a wide range of professions, such as delivery drivers, builders, electricians, healthcare workers, security staff, cleaners, and many others.

Lone workers are often exposed to greater risks, as they may not have immediate assistance available if something goes wrong, such as a medical emergency, an act of violence, or a workplace accident. Employers have a legal responsibility to assess and manage the risks associated with lone working to ensure the safety and well-being of their staff.

What are the risks of lone working?

Lone working, by its very nature, exposes employees to a range of potential hazards that may not be present in a more traditional, collaborative work environment. Some of the key risks associated with lone working include:

Violence in the workplace

Employees who work alone, especially in high-risk settings such as healthcare, retail, or security, are more vulnerable to acts of violence. This might include physical assault, verbal abuse, and even robbery. Without the presence of colleagues or supervisors, lone workers may find themselves in dangerous situations with limited options for assistance or support.

Stress and mental health

The isolation and lack of social interaction which is typical of lone working can take a significant toll on an employee’s mental health. Feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression can arise, potentially leading to decreased productivity, absenteeism, and even burnout.

Accidents and medical emergencies

Lack of immediate assistance: If a lone worker is injured or becomes ill, there may be no one nearby to provide first aid or call for help, which can exacerbate the situation and lead to more severe consequences. Without close supervision or colleagues around, accidents that may have been minor can quickly escalate. If a lone worker suffers a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, stroke, or severe injury, the lack of immediate assistance can be life-threatening.

Therefore, employers need to ensure that lone workers have the necessary training and resources to respond effectively in such situations.

How can employers manage the risk to lone workers?

To effectively mitigate the risks associated with lone working, employers must take a proactive and comprehensive approach to managing the safety and well-being of their staff. Here are some key strategies that business could implement to mitigate risk to lone workers:

Provide adequate training

Ensure that all lone workers receive comprehensive training on topics such as risk assessment, conflict de-escalation, emergency response procedures, and first aid. This will equip them with the knowledge and skills to handle potentially dangerous situations that could put their health and safety at risk.

Keep in touch

Implement robust communication systems, such as regular check-ins, GPS tracking, or panic buttons, to maintain regular contact with lone workers and quickly respond to any emergencies or accidents that may occur.

Assess medical suitability

Carefully evaluate the medical suitability of your employee to ensure they are physically and mentally capable of working alone. This will allow you to ensure they are fit for the demands of the role and can respond effectively in the event of a medical emergency.

Develop comprehensive lone working policies

Establish clear policies and procedures that address the unique challenges of lone working, including guidelines for risk assessment, emergency protocols, and employee support mechanisms. Meridian, our risk management software, is the perfect solution for storing and managing all your compliance documentation across the board.

Provide ongoing support and resources

Offer mental health resources, such as counselling services or employee assistance programs, to help lone workers manage the stress and isolation associated with their work. Some businesses may even provide online resources such as mental health applications or digital therapy.

Conduct a risk assessment

Employers have a legal duty to carry out a thorough risk assessment for their lone workers to ensure their health, safety, and compliance with relevant regulations. A comprehensive risk assessment is essential for identifying the specific hazards and potential risks that lone workers may face, such as violence, medical emergencies, or environmental hazards.

By conducting this assessment, employers can develop appropriate control measures and safe systems of work to mitigate these risks. Failure to conduct a risk assessment for lone workers can have serious consequences, including legal penalties, financial liabilities, and reputational damage for the employer.

Many countries have specific laws and regulations that require employers to assess and manage the risks associated with lone working, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act in the UK. By proactively addressing the risks faced by lone workers, employers can not only fulfil their legal obligations but also demonstrate a genuine commitment to the well-being and safety of their staff. This can lead to improved employee morale, reduced absenteeism, and a stronger overall safety culture within the organisation.

By addressing the risks of lone working and implementing effective strategies to protect their employees, employers can not only ensure compliance with relevant regulations but also foster a safer, more supportive work environment that promotes the well-being and productivity of their staff.

At William Martin, we tailor our services to you, so you can rest assured that all your needs and expectations are met. Our health and safety consultants have a wealth of experience and go above and beyond, giving honest and pragmatic advice, every time. We can conduct health and safety risk assessments as well as audit and gap analysis, to help you remain compliant and identify areas for improvement.

Contact

At William Martin, we bring unparalleled health & safety expertise and powerful technology to the table. Whatever your sector and wherever you are, we give you the support you need to keep compliant, strong, and successful. For all enquiries, please contact us or call our team on 0203 819 8829.

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