Working alone is becoming increasingly common as more firms introduce home working and more people decide to set-up up small, micro-businesses.
People can be required to work on their own in all sorts of industries, but just because an employee is Working From Home or at a site on their own it doesn’t mean they should be less protected than other staff.
In fact, the lone worker probably needs even more protection than other staff because of the unique health and safety problems posed by the isolated individual.
If you are working alone for long periods of time you must be sure that checks have been made on your working conditions and that a robust safety plan is in place, in case anything should go wrong.
What Sort of Jobs Involve Lone Working?
Almost any role can involve an element of lone working but some jobs mean that you will be regularly working on your own.
As technology and the internet start to play a greater role in the world of work it’s becoming less necessary for employees to come into an office, so consequently more people are working alone for long periods of time.
Some of the most common situations where you could become a lone worker include:
- Premises with just one member of staff like a small shop, petrol station or kiosk.
- Self employed people who work alone.
- Individuals that work alone in areas away from other staff.
- Staff working outside normal hours such as cleaners or security personnel.
- Service staff, like social workers, who are regularly outside the office.
- Mobile workers like sales representatives or maintenance staff.
What are the Employer’s Duties?
Although employers are always legally obliged to safeguard the health and safety of their staff there aren’t any specific duties to protect lone workers.
However, under the same general rules organisations must look at all the risks involved in working alone, identify the potential hazards and introduce measures to help control them.
Employers should carry out a Risk Assessment to make sure the job can be conducted safely by a lone worker. They should also identify any training, supervision or additional equipment that may be required.
For homeworkers, employers must also carry out a risk assessment of the role and the place where the job will take place.
If the company employs more than five people the results of the risk assessment must be recorded. In some industries there are specific laws about what jobs can be done alone, so you should check if there are any restrictions.
How can Lone Workers Operate More Safely?
Employers should think about lone and home workers in exactly the same way as all other staff when it comes to health and safety. They should look at all the requirements and needs of the person carrying out the job and make sure they can do it safely.
However, lone workers do have some unique needs that may need more planning. These include:
- Emergency procedures.
- Personal safety and protection from violence.
- Illness or accidents.
- Safe entry and exit points.
- Equipment training.
- The suitability of women or young people who may be at greater risk.
- Medical issues.
- First Aid Provisions.
Although constant supervision is unrealistic employers are still responsible for staff welfare and as such should have some way of monitoring lone workers. This could include automatic warnings or regular contact over the phone or radio.
Taking Sensible Precautions
If you do any job that qualifies you as a lone worker you should think very carefully about the following:
- Do you have adequate ways of communicating with others?
- Do you have any medical conditions that could make lone working more risky?
- How would you raise the alarm in an emergency?
- Could operating any equipment or machinery alone prove dangerous?
- Is there a risk of violence?
- Can substances or products be handled safely by one person?