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Workers Who Work Alone – Their Health and Safety

If you work all by yourself without any direct or close supervision, you are said to be a lone worker.

What an employer must do for a lone worker.

It is the responsibility of your Employer to protect you as a lone worker. This also applies if you’re working for them as a contractor, a freelancer or are self-employed.

The following are what Employers should do for their lone workers:

  • Provide training.
  • Keep in touch with their lone workers.
  • Employ ways to prevent work-related incidents.

 

What you must do as a lone worker.

  • Like any worker, you must be conscious of your health and safety and that of others around you at work.
  • Cultivate cooperation with your employers and co-workers to help everyone meet their duties under the law.
  • Find out how health and safety laws apply to you as a self-employed.
  • Do not keep silent about your concerns.

If you’re discomforted with inherent health and safety risks that can affect you as a lone worker, quickly let your concerns known to:

 

  • Your employer
  • A Managing Officer or a line supervisor
  • A health and safety delegate

 

  1. Overview

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

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

  • As delivery drivers, health workers or engineers.
  • As security staff or cleaners.
  • In warehouses or petrol stations.
  • At home.

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

  1. Manage the risks of working alone

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, you must manage the threat to lone workers.

Think about who will be involved and which hazards could harm those working alone.

You must:

  • Train, supervise and monitor lone workers.
  • Keep in touch with them and respond to any incident.
  • When a lone worker is at someone else’s workplace, make it a point of duty to ask that employer about any risks and control measures available to make sure they are protected.

Risks to consider

Risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

  • Violence in the workplace.
  • Stress and mental health or wellbeing.
  • A person’s medical suitability to work alone.
  • The workplace itself, for example, is it a rural or isolated area?

High-risk work

Certain high-risk works require at least one other person. These include 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

You have the same health and safety obligations for homeworkers and the same liability for accident or injury for other workers.

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

 

  1. Violence

Lone working does not always mean a higher risk of violence, but it does make workers more susceptible and 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

Put extreme measures in place to support any worker who has experienced violence. Workers can play their part by identifying and reporting incidents promptly and adequately.

Personal safety or violence prevention training 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.

Guidance on work-related violence includes advice and case studies on preventing violence towards lone workers.

Stress and other health factors

Lone working can cause work-related stress and affect a worker’s mental condition.

The Stress Management Standards of the Health and Safety Executives include the importance of relationships with, and support from, other workers.

Being away from supervisors and colleagues could make it difficult to get proper support.

Keep in touch

Put procedures in place that enables direct contact with the lone worker so their supervisor can recognise traces of stress as timely as possible.

If contact is poor, workers may feel detached, secluded or abandoned. This can affect their performance and potentially their stress degrees and mental condition.

Working alone with a medical condition

If you are unsure whether someone’s health situation means they are safe to work alone, obtain medical advice. Think about both regular work and possible emergencies that may put extra physical and mental burdens on the lone worker.

First aid and emergencies

Put emergency procedures in place and ensure lone workers know their usage.

Your risk assessment should indicate lone workers should:

  • Have in their possession, adequate First aid boxes.
  • Receive first aid training, as well as know-how to use first aid on themselves
  • Have access to adequate first aid facilities

Emergency procedures should include guidance on how and when a lone worker should contact his employers, including details of any emergency contact numbers.

Monitor the condition of lone workers

Some lone workers can have specific risks to their health. For example, lone HGV drivers have high physical and mental demands on them, with long moments behind the wheel. Monitor their health and adapt drivers’ work to allow for any distinct health needs.

 

 Training, supervision and monitoring 

Training 

It’s harder for lone workers to get help, so they may need extra training. They should understand the risks in their work and know-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 unusual and immediate situations, such as those involving violence and commotion.

You should set limits on what can be done while working alone. Make sure workers are:

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

 

Supervision

Base your levels of supervision on your risk assessment – the higher the risk, the more supervision will be needed. This will also depend on their ability to identify and handle health and safety matters.

The amount of supervision depends on:

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

New workers must be supervised at first if they are:

  • being trained
  • doing a job with obvious risks
  • dealing with unique situations
  • Monitoring and keeping in touch

You must oversee your lone workers and not lose sight of them. Make sure they understand any monitoring system and procedures you employ. These may include:

  • when supervisors should stop by and examine lone workers
  • knowing where lone workers are, with pre-agreed periods of regular contact, using any means of communication such as phones, radios, emails, etc
  • other devices for raising alarm operated manually or automatically
  • a valid system to ensure a lone worker has returned to their base once they have finished their task

Regularly test these systems and all emergency techniques to ensure lone workers can be contacted if a crisis or emergency is noticed.

 

When workers’ first language is not English

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

Ensure they have received and understood the information, education and training they need to work safely.

Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHAssociation) is an effective institution focused on workers well-being and safety, kindly reach out to us in any area we can assist you or your organisation further in achieving a healthy and safe working environment. Contact us via info@oshassociation.org

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