Lone Working in Employment

Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. The most obvious example is the driver workforce. 

An employer must manage any health and safety risks before people can work alone. This applies to anyone contracted to work for them, including self-employed people.  

Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision, for example: 

  • Delivery drivers, health workers or engineers 
  • Security staff or cleaners 
  • Workers in warehouses or petrol stations 
  • Those working at home 

There will always be greater risks for lone workers without direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong. Many of them are exposed to work-related road risks. 

Manage the risks of working alone 

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers must manage the risk to lone workers by thinking about who will be involved and which hazards could harm those working alone. 

Employers must:

  • Train, supervise and monitor lone workers 
  • Keep in touch with them and respond to any incident

Where a lone worker will be at someone else’s workplace the owner/manager of that work place must be consulted about any risks and control measures in place to make sure they are protected. 

TRAINING SUPERVISING & MONITORING 

Training  

It is harder for lone workers to get help, so they may need extra training. They should understand any risks in their work and how to control them. 

Training is particularly important:

  • where there is limited supervision to control, guide and help in uncertain situations 
  • in enabling people to cope with unexpected situations, such as those involving violence 

Employers should set limits on what can be done whilst working alone and make sure workers are: 

  • competent to deal with the requirements of the job 
  • trained in using any technical solutions 
  • able to recognise when they should get advice 

Supervision 

Levels of supervision should be based on a risk assessment and the higher the risk level, the more supervision will be required. This will also depend on the worker's ability to identify and handle health and safety issues. 

The amount of supervision depends on:

  • the risks involved 
  • their ability to identify and handle health and safety issues 

It is a good idea for a new worker to be supervised initially if they are:

  • being trained 
  • carrying out a job with specific risks 
  • dealing with new situations 

Monitoring and keeping in touch 

Employers must monitor lone workers, keep in touch with them and make sure they understand any monitoring system and procedures in use. These may include:

  • scheduling when supervisors should visit and observe lone workers 
  • knowing where lone workers are, with pre-agreed intervals of regular contact, using phones, radios, email etc. 
  • providing other suitable devices for raising the alarm if required, operated manually or automatically 
  • setting up a reliable system to ensure a lone worker has returned to their base once they have completed their task 

Systems and all emergency procedures should be regularly tested to ensure lone workers can be contacted if a problem or emergency is identified. 

When a workers’ first language is not English 

Lone workers from outside the UK may come across unfamiliar risks, in a workplace culture very different from that in their own country. 

Employers must ensure the worker has received and understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely. 

Find out more on employing migrant workers by selecting the link below:
https://www.hse.gov.uk/migrantworkers/about.htm 

Risks to consider 

Risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

  • violence in the workplace 
  • stress, effects on mental health or well being 
  • a person’s medical suitability to work alone 
  • the workplace itself e.g. if it is in a rural or isolated area 

High-risk Work 

Certain high-risk work requires at least one other person. This includes work:

  • in a confined space, where a supervisor may need to be there, along with someone in a rescue role 
  • near exposed live electricity conductors 
  • in diving operations 
  • in vehicles carrying explosives 
  • with fumigation 

Working From Home 

Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for homeworkers and the same liability for accident or injury as for any other workers. 

This means employers must provide supervision, education and training, as well as implementing enough control measures to protect the homeworker. 

Violence 

Lone working does not always mean a higher risk of violence, but it does make workers more vulnerable. The lack of nearby support makes it harder for them to prevent an incident. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines violence as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’ – this includes verbal threats. 

Some of the key workplace violence risks include:

  • late evening or early morning work, when fewer workers are around 
  • lone workers, such as security staff, who have authority over customers and are enforcing rules 
  • people affected by alcohol or drugs 
  • carrying money or valuable equipment 

Support and Training 

Measures should be in place to support any worker who has experienced violence. Workers can play their part by identifying and reporting incidents. 

Training in personal safety or violence prevention will help workers:

  • recognise situations where they feel at risk 
  • use conflict resolution techniques or leave the workplace 

Impact of violence and how to prevent it 

The impact of violence can lead to physical injury and work-related stress, which may have serious and long-term effects on workers’ physical and mental health. 

Violence can also lead to high staff turnover, low productivity and damage to business reputation. 

HSE’s guidance on work-related violence, including advice and case studies on preventing violence towards lone workers, can be found at the link below:
https://www.hse.gov.uk/violence/law.htm 

Please visit the link below to the HSE website which covers Lone Working and the requirements of Employers and Employees. 

Lone Working - https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/lone.htm