In simple terms a 'Lone Worker' is someone who does just that - works alone. Of course, things are not always that simple so we have taken a look at some examples of what constitutes a lone worker and provided some guidance to help you identify and control the risks to lone workers.
Where to begin with managing your lone workers
Like all employees there is a duty to ensure the safety and welfare so far as is reasonably practicable. Lone Workers are no different. Therefor you should start with a risk assessment which seeks to identify all the significant risks your lone worker is exposed to. Risks commonly linked to lone working specifically include:
Note that these will exist alongside the tasks they are carrying out which, compared to someone who is not a lone worker have an increased likelihood or severity of injury.
From the employer perspective you should make it clear what your policy is regarding lone workers. This means establishing rules and governance surrounding activities carried out by lone workers. This should of course be communicated and accessible to all. This document will provide guidance to others within the organisation on what the limits, restrictions and expectations are in respect of managing lone working. Common points addressed in a lone working policy include:
Need to risk asses specific risks
What the company defines lone working to be (possible examples also given)
Who is responsible for managing lone workers
Employees responsibilities when lone working
Any specific tasks or locations prohibited from lone working.
By far the most popular method is to try and eliminate the amount of time people are lone working.
Some organisations ban lone working in high risk environments but accept it in lower risk tasks (i.e. office staff may stay late - with other controls in place).
Reporting Systems. This is no different to if you have ever called someone to let them know you got home safely. Any mechanism which seeks to regularly contact the lone worker and ultimately ensure they are ok up to the point they 'clock off' can help prevent or mitigate risks.
Alarms. There are many affordable solutions available now which allow workers to 'clock on'. Some will allow tracking, provide panic alarms and also contact pre-defined people after periods of inactivity.
Training. Training staff in the risks associated with lone working and the processes in place to protect them.
As an employer you have a duty to all your employees and lone workers are no different. By taking simple steps to properly identify the risks and giving consideration to the possible outcomes of these risks go a long way to ensuring you have reasonably protected lone workers.