Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.
Lone working presents employers with particular problems in relation to health and safety. To a certain extent, people who work alone must look after their own health and safety. However, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their employees and of others who may be affected by their work activities. In addition, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers have a responsibility to assess the risk to their workers, including any lone workers, and to implement measures to remove the risks or reduce and control them.
These responsibilities cannot be transferred to any other person, including those people who work alone, although all employees also have responsibilities to take reasonable care of themselves and other people affected by their work activities and to cooperate with their employers in meeting their legal obligations.
Lone workers can be found throughout the Council in a wide range of situations. They can be found in fixed establishments, for example where only one person works on the premises, where people work separately from each other and where people work outside normal working hours. They can also be mobile workers working away from a fixed base, for example construction workers, social workers, care workers, drivers, planning officers and environmental health officers.
Lone workers should not be put at more risk than any other employees.
Risk assessment will enable managers to decide on the right level of control measures for lone workers. Precautions should take account of normal work and foreseeable emergencies, such as fire, equipment failure, illness and accidents.
There are some high-risk activities where at least one other person may need to be present. Examples include: working in a high-risk confined space, where a supervisor and/or someone dedicated to the rescue role may need to be present; people working at or near exposed live electricity conductors; other electrical work where at least two people are sometimes required.
It is important to involve the workers themselves in the risk assessment process. Employees can be a valuable source of information and advice and consultation with them can also help to ensure that all relevant hazards are identified and that appropriate control measures are chosen.
All employees must be provided with sufficient information, instruction and training to enable them to carry out their work safely, but this is particularly important in the case of lone workers due to the relative lack of supervision present to control, guide and help in situations of uncertainty. Training may be critical to avoid people panicking in unusual situations.
Lone workers need to be able to recognise the hazards and appreciate the risks of working alone and to understand the precautions to be taken. Employers should set the limits to what can and cannot be done and ensure employees are competent to deal with circumstances that are new, unusual or beyond the scope of their training, and that they know when to stop work and seek advice.
Although lone workers are not, by definition, subject to constant supervision, procedures must be put in place to monitor lone workers to help keep them healthy and safe. The level of supervision required should be based on the findings of a risk assessment: the higher the risk the greater level of supervision required.
Lone workers should be capable of responding correctly to emergencies. Risk assessment should identify foreseeable events. Emergency procedures should be established and employees trained in them.
Information regarding a workplace’s emergency procedures and any danger areas should be given to lone workers. They should have access to adequate first-aid facilities, and mobile workers should carry a first-aid kit suitable for treating minor injuries. Occasionally, risk assessment may indicate that lone workers need first aid training.
Advice on lone working can be obtained from the Health and Safety Team, Tŷ Elai, Williamstown, CF40 1NY, telephone number 01443 425546.