How to Improve Lone Working Safety in 2023
With an estimated 6 to 8 million lone workers in the UK and the rise of home working increasing these lone working numbers.
businesses are looking for effective ways to prioritise the safety of their lone workers in 2023 and improve the safety of lone working.
What is Lone Working?
First of all, let’s clarify what defines a ‘lone worker’:
Lone working involves performing tasks or activities for extended periods without direct or close supervision and without the presence of nearby colleagues within earshot. However, the definition of a lone worker encompasses a wide range of situations and circumstances.
According to the HSE, lone workers range from:
- Health and social care staff who work alone for long hours
- Delivery drivers and post office workers
- Security staff and cleaners
- Those who work from home
How to Identify Lone Workers in Your Organisation
Have you ever considered that you may employ lone workers? A significant number of employers are actually unaware of the necessity for implementing lone worker safety procedures within their employee safety plan.
Consider this scenario: Lone workers may be functioning as part of a team, sharing the same physical space or building. However, lone workers are situated at a sufficient distance from their colleagues and/or manager, causing them to be out of sight and beyond the range of normal communication. Whether it’s within a fixed location, on the road, or in any other work setting, this characteristic holds true for lone workers.
Furthermore, the recent surge in remote work has led to a growing population of individuals who previously worked in office environments but now operate from the comfort of their homes. And it’s worth noting that remote working is legally recognised as a form of lone working.
For further guidance in identifying lone workers in your organisation, download our free checklist.
What are the Risks for Lone Workers?
Lone workers are not necessarily exposed to a higher risk of accidents or violence. However, working alone inherently increases their vulnerability. Some risks include:
- Acts of Violence: Statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicate that as many as 150 lone workers are either physically or verbally attacked every day.
- Injuries: The most common causes of injury for lone workers aside from acts of violence, include slips, trips and falls, manual handling, lifting or carrying, being struck by a moving object, and falls from height. The risk increases for the lone worker as, without the necessary tools, and when the option for calling for help when they need it are limited.
- Breakdown of Communication: Those working on the road also face increased danger from issues like loss of communication with supervisors, breaking down at a time when assistance is hard to come by, or falling ill without a co-worker there to raise the alert.
- Working from Home: Even remote working poses its own set of risks. Isolation, blurred work-life boundaries, and potential distractions can impact mental wellbeing and productivity. Home environments may not be ergonomically optimised, increasing the risk of physical ailments. Limited access to immediate assistance and potential difficulties in maintaining a safe work environment, further highlight the importance of addressing the unique challenges faced by lone workers working from home.
So, How Can I Keep My Lone Workers Safe?
Now you have identified the need for a lone worker safety plan in your organisation, how do you go about it?
Here are 4 steps you can take to improve lone worker safety:
Carry Out a Lone Worker Risk Assessment
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, detail that employers are obligated to conduct general risk assessments. With a requirement for recording significant findings when there are five or more employees.
While conducting a separate risk assessment specifically for lone workers is not mandatory, it is crucial for employers to include them in their general risk assessment process if they have lone workers in their team. By considering the unique risks and challenges faced by lone workers, employers can ensure their safety and wellbeing as an integral part of overall risk management.
Create a Lone Working Policy
If you employ lone workers, a robust lone worker policy is essential for promoting a safety-conscious culture and minimising legal risks. To create an effective policy, consider the specific risks faced by lone workers and provide best practice guidance specific to your organisation.
Key elements to include in your comprehensive lone worker policy are:
- Tailored risk assessments for different job roles or lone worker types
- Definitions of key terms
- Background information and a purpose statement
- Demonstrated commitment to lone worker safety from the organisation
- Clearly defined responsibilities for employers and employees
- Guidance on incident reporting procedures
- Provision of relevant support and contact details for immediate assistance
Provide Lone Worker Training
You probably already have health and safety and/or induction training of some sort. Why not add a module for lone workers? Address the unique risks associated with working alone, including often overlooked ones.
With the convenience of video and online learning management systems, employers can effectively equip lone workers with the necessary knowledge and skills to stay safe in remote settings. By regularly sending out informative bulletins, valuable information, and timely reminders, employers can strengthen their relationship with lone workers and keep them fully informed whilst working alone.
Utilise Advancements in Technology
In 2023, organisations have access to game-changing technology that can significantly enhance lone worker safety.
Take lone working apps as an example, which can provide real-time monitoring, emergency alerts, and two-way communication channels to keep workers connected and enable swift assistance when needed.
What’s more, integrating these apps with your Learning Management System (LMS) and Online Health and Safety Systems can provide a centralised hub for incident reporting, accessing vital resources, and seeking guidance, fostering a culture of transparency and support.
By embracing health and safety technology, organisations can establish a robust support infrastructure that nurtures the ongoing safety and confidence of lone working staff. It means that workers can carry out their duties with peace of mind, knowing that help is just a tap away.