Lone worker safety – two key scenarios that are sometimes overlooked by employers

There are many situations that can lead to an employee working alone. But whatever the reason - whether it’s a one-off or simply the nature of their job role - as an employer, you have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of such ‘lone workers’.

In this blog, we’re going to look at the many reasons lone working can arise, what your legal responsibilities are as an employer and the key steps you can take to be compliant.

We’re also going to highlight two common scenarios that can sometimes be overlooked by employers, to help you ensure you have everything covered.

 
Definition of a lone worker

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as: ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’.

According to the guidance, this includes individuals who are working in a fixed environment, such as a kiosk, factory or shop, or out of hours in an office, such as cleaners. It also applies to mobile workers who work away from a fixed based, such as sales reps.

 
Why might someone be working alone on the premises?

If you have premises that staff attend to carry out their duties, then there is the chance that at some point they may be on site alone.

The internet has transformed the way many companies now do business and the world has become a far smaller place. Customers have an expectation that companies will always be ‘open for business’, which is in turn affecting the way firms operate - and when.

This is set against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, where competition is fierce, and firms may feel they have to go for every opportunity – no matter when it may land. So, having someone there outside of normal office hours, is now a common occurrence.

Here are some of the most common scenarios:

  • Tenders - it could be due to a big project or tender with a tight deadline
  • Overtime - employees may be working overtime
  • Maintenance - building maintenance may be being carried out
  • IT issues - it may be due to an IT or systems emergency, such as the main server going down
  • Critical operations - the business may also require someone to be on site at all times to oversee critical functions

 

But there are two other reasons for lone working that can sometimes be overlooked by employers within their planning:

 

  • Employees with keys who are first on site, or last to leave

Certain employees may be tasked with holding keys to the premises and have responsibility for unlocking and locking up the site.

  • Employees who need to attend out of hours to deal with alarms

Team members may also be responsible for holding keys and attending the site in the case of an alarm or other emergencies (such as a burst pipe) that occur out of hours.

(By the way….we can support your business with both these scenarios and many others too. Find out more about our Key Holding & Alarm Response and Locks & Unlocks services here.)

 

Legal responsibilities surrounding lone workers

Whatever the reason for the lone working may be, as an employer you will always be legally responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of team members. The law requires all employers to think about and deal with any health and safety risks before people are allowed to work alone.

According to the HSE, the considerations that need to be made include:

  • Assessing areas of risk including violence, manual handling, the medical suitability of the individual to work alone and whether the workplace itself presents a risk to them
  • Requirements for training, levels of experience and how best to monitor and supervise them
  • Making sure you know what is happening, including having systems in place to keep in touch with them regularly

 

10 top tips for ensuring you’re compliant

To ensure you are compliant and meeting your legal obligations as an employer, here are some key actions and considerations you need to make.

  • Talk to potential lone workers about matters of health and safety, to ensure that relevant hazards are identified, and appropriate and proportionate control measures put in place.
  • Conduct a thorough risk assessment and if you have five or more employees then ensure you record the significant findings of all risk assessments you carry out. Your risk assessment process should identify all the issues relevant to your circumstances.
  • Consider both ‘normal’ working arrangement and any foreseeable emergencies that may come up, such as fire, equipment failure, illness and accidents.
  • Use your risk assessment to help you decide on the right level of supervision. If the role involved high-risk activities, then make sure at least one other person is present.
  • Have clear procedures outlined and provide adequate training for any emergency situations that may arise. Ensure workers have access to first-aid kits and training.
  • Check that lone working is an option in your industry. Some jobs are prohibited by law from being carried out alone.
  • Consider individual employee medical conditions where relevant and seek further advice from medical professionals if needed.
  • Provide training where needed, especially for company key holders. This is particularly important where there is limited supervision to control, guide and help in uncertain situations, such as when responding to an intruder alarm.
  • Put strong procedures in place to monitor lone workers. Providing effective means of communication is essential here, and so too is being in regular contact. Consider what types of automatic warning devices and triggers could be used.
  • Read up - HSE has put together a free leaflet providing guidance for employers on how to keep lone workers safe and healthy, as well as self-employed people who work alone. You can download it here.

 

Managing lone working in practice

As an employer ourselves, with a fleet of mobile security officers who are out on the road 365 days of the year, managing lone working is something we know a lot about, here at Venture Security.

Our mobile patrol officers carry personal alarms and there is always someone at the end of the phone line, no matter what time it may be. We also operate a strict check-in system, at the start and end of each shift and every hour in between, our vans are fitted with GPS trackers and our officers carry GPS locatable panic alarms.

In turn, our mobile patrol officers help our customers to manage their own lone worker responsibilities. Our highly trained team can hold a set of keys to a clients’ premises and accompany employees in their duties, or manage locks and alarm responses for them removing the need for lone workers.

A key benefit of this is that it takes the pressure and responsibility off employees. Our team can respond to an alarm very quickly and every officer is also trained in conflict and crime scene management, so no matter what they are confronted with, they are ready to take appropriate action. They also have the backing of an experienced head office team behind them at all times.

 

Talk to us

Interested in finding out more? Call us for an informal chat about your security requirements on 01264 391538, or browse our full range of commercial services here.

 

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