All employers have a legal – and many would say moral – obligation to minimize the workplace hazards to their workers. But, if you have staff who work alone, whether in the office, or out in the field, it can be a challenge to ensure you are doing all you should to meet those requirements. So, how sure are you that you have the proper measures in place to protect your lone workers?
So, what should you take into account?
Well, there are no restrictions about your staff working by themselves. But you must carry out a risk assessment to ensure you’ve taken into account any potential dangers and you must put in place measures to avoid or control risks that are identified.
Those measures might include providing extra instruction for your workers to make sure they’re following safe practice, a training course perhaps where you bring in experts to provide a reminder session, or some supervision so you’re sure your staff have reached a certain level of competence before you allow them to work alone.
And, it doesn’t stop there, employers need to repeat their risk assessments regularly to make sure their safety measures are still relevant and up-to-date.
One key consideration is that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) very clearly states that lone workers shouldn’t be put at more risk than their colleagues.
So, that might mean you have to put in place extra risk-control measures to make sure all of your staff are equally protected.
Many employers choose to fulfil their obligations – and, in these times of litigations, to prove they are fulfilling their obligations – by putting in place special safety systems.
Mental health charity Mind, and Newcastle NHS Trust for example, who both have workers who may be dealing with unpredictable patients, use the lone worker safety system from Lookout Call. It allows them to protect their workforce while demonstrating a robust duty of care towards staff.
Lone workers can use their mobile to ring into the system, leaving regular voice messages in case supervisors and colleagues need to know where they are and what they are doing. They can leave information about how long they expect any meeting or appointment to last, triggering a countdown which alerts their employer if they don’t stop it when they should have.
There’s also a panic alert where the lone worker can ask for instant assistance, so their employer knows they are in trouble.
Bury St Edmund’s Women’s Aid Centre, also uses the system. Manager Annie Munson says: “We used to manage lone worker safety by asking staff to simply call into the office when they arrived at an appointment, and once again when they were leaving. They didn’t really have any control over raising an alarm other than dialling 999, which isn’t always a realistic option in an emergency situation.
“By automating the check-in system, we know that no staff member can ever be overlooked, which is very reassuring. The panic button feature also gives our staff confidence that they can discretely call for help should a situation get out of hand.”
It’s just one option for employers who must think about how to cope with a number of possible risks to lone workers – such as whether female workers are particularly at risk if they work alone, whether all of their staff are medically fit to work alone and whether equipment or substances can be safely handled by just one person.
Overall, the aim is to make sure that lone workers are just as protected as all your other staff. And, if that isn’t the case already, then you must take action to make sure your lone workers aren’t being left out in the cold when it comes to their health and safety.
About the Author
Katie Matthews is a Marketing Executive for Lookout Call the leading lone worker application in the UK. Katie writes about a number of topics covering technical applications for business and procedures to improve health and safety in the workplace.