Managing Lone Workers Risks
This will be a two-part blog with challenges and hazards being covered in first part. The second part will mainly deal with safe working arrangements.
Lone workers occupy some of the most challenging and dangerous jobs. The constant fear of physical harm takes a toll on lone workers, and their lack of safety confidence can lead to a reduced level of performance, a lower level of engagement with the organization and increased employee turnover.
Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. They are found in a wide range of situations, including people in fixed establishments where:
- Only one person works on the premises such as small workshops, petrol stations, kiosks, shops, and home.
- People work separately from others on the premises, e.g. Factories, warehouses, construction site.
- People work alone outside normal hours, e.g. Cleaners, security, special production, repair staff, etc.
- Mobile workers working away from their fixed base, including:
- Those on construction, plant installation, maintenance and cleaning work, lift repairs, painting and decorating, vehicle recovery, etc.
- Agricultural and forestry workers
- Service workers
- Security officers
Hazards that lone workers may encounter:
- Incidents or emergencies arising out of the work, including inadequate provision of first aid
- Sudden illnesses
- Inadequate provision of rest, hygiene and welfare facilities
- Physical violence from members of the public and/or intruders
Lone workers may be at increased risk because of these hazards and risks associated with the work carried out which are related to
- The work location
- The equipment to be used
- Whether the lone worker is a new, young person, expected mother.
- Distance from emergency facilities
- Lack of training or competence
- Lack of supervision
- Limited communication with their employer
Where the risks are considered very high, then lone working should be avoided, and a second worker should be provided.
Responsibilities for lone workers
The employer holds the main responsibility for protecting the safety and health of lone workers. However, lone workers themselves have a responsibility to help their employer fulfil this duty, and so they must:
- Take reasonable care to look after their own safety and health
- Safeguard the safety and health of other people affected by their work
- Co-operate with their employer’s safety and health procedures
- Use tools and other equipment properly, in accordance with any relevant safety instructions and training they have been given
- Not misusing the equipment provided for their safety and health
- Report all accidents, injuries, near-misses and other dangerous occurrences
Control measures to minimize the risk to lone workers
The risk assessment should prescribe control measures to be implemented to eliminate/minimize the identified risks. Such control measures may include:
- Communication is very important: mobile phone, telephone or radio
- Controlled periodic checks
- Automatic warning devices, e.g. panic alarms, no movement alarms, automatic distress message systems, i.e. prerecorded message sent if not actively cancelled by operative, etc.
- Instruction and training in proper procedures, e.g. code words for potentially violent situations when combined with mobile phone communication.
- Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Health surveillance
- First-aid kits and training
- Implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s)
- Locking and securing place of work
- Implementing correct incident reporting procedures
- Provision of counselling