Who is a Lone Worker?
Before we can explore risk assessment, we must first establish who our lone workers are.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as: “Someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision.
Lone workers include those who:
- work from a fixed base, such as one person working alone on a premises (e.g, shops, petrol stations etc);
- work separately from others on the same premises (e.g security staff) or work outside normal hours;
- work away from a fixed base (e.g, maintenance workers, health care workers, environment inspectors);
- work at home (homeworkers); and
- mobile workers (e.g, taxi drivers).”
What is not widely understood is that this definition is not limited in its application and the definition applies not only to people who work away from the main office but additionally to a multitude of office or premises-based people, in a multitude of working scenarios. To find out more follow the link to understand “what is a lone worker” and this link for examples of best industry practice.
What is meant by the term “duty of care”?
Within Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 there is a crucial obligation on the employer in that:
“It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”.
This duty is known as the “duty of care” and constitutes a key – possibly the key – component in the management of lone worker safety. The duty applies regardless of the employment sector and, despite containing so few words, it can have profound consequences for employers.
Why do you need to conduct a Risk Assessment?
All businesses, regardless of size, are legally obliged to conduct risk assessments of all their business activities and, if they employ five or more employees, to record any significant risks.
The importance of a lone worker risk assessment
Lone workers face risks which might not cross the mind of office-based workers and with lone workers on the rise it becomes even more prudent that a risk assessment should be completed before that individual works unsupervised or alone.
As part of your lone worker policy, a risk assessment can be used to help display that you have looked into the work which you are tasking of your employee and are satisfied that they are safe, or you have done so and have provided them with a BS8484 Lone Worker Solution.
Download our Free Five-by-Five Risk Assessment Template
But what do we mean by the term “risk”? For the answer to this fundamental question, we must turn to the HSE Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) in respect of the applicable law, which is the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This ACOP explains that there are two elements to consider in any risk assessment: the “hazard” and the “risk”.
The hazard is defined as anything with the potential to cause harm (so that could be a work practice, an environment, a piece of equipment, etc …).
The risk is defined as the probability that this harm will actually arise.
A Risk & Hazard Example
For the sake of clarity let’s put these terms into perspective by looking at the risk associated with working at the top of a ladder. The obvious hazard to consider is that the person might fall off the ladder and sustain an injury; the risk is the probability that the person could actually fall – and this crucial factor will vary with the circumstances.
If the ladder is mounted on a slope, or on unstable ground, then the chance of a fall occurring is obviously far higher than if the ladder is placed on level ground and is securely tied off. But, regardless of the accident mechanism, the outcome – the level of harm caused to the casualty – will be the same.
Best Industry Practice
When investigating safety-related incidents, the HSE will consider “best industry practice” for example, where some industry sector employers implement the deployment of lone worker PPE, systems, or solutions for their staff. Consequently, employers who do not deploy such systems should be prepared to respond, if challenged either by HSE or by representation from staff, and explain why they chose not to adopt “best industry practice” when other organisations, operating in a similar industry sector, feel that the risk is sufficient to demonstrate that a system is necessary.
There are numerous examples of industry sectors demonstrating industry best practice. The following list provides food for thought:
- Property and Facilities Management, Housing Associations, Housebuilders, Estate Agents and Property rental companies.
- Construction workers and those who work either on site or “off grid”. Working off grid could present special risks and may also require a roaming SIM and GPS or WiFi solution such as Companion App to make sure there is a connection when working remotely.
- Charities and volunteer workers, such as individuals who go door to door seeking donations.
- The financial industry, loan providers and financial advisors, employees within these companies who make home visits to their customers to collect monies, manage finances or provide loans.
- Those who work in the health and social care sector, this could be GP’s on call, NHS Staff, Nurses within the community, social workers, offender rehabilitation, and those who complete domiciliary visits.
- Local Authority workers, especially those who are interacting with members of the public either within an office, or while operating in their local communities.
- Utility companies such as gas, water and electricity companies who send out engineers to remote sites, or staff to households to conduct a repair or deliver a service.
- Home workers are also included. Flexible working is becoming more popular with employers utilising technology to work remotely.
- Transport and logistics; this could be delivery drivers, taxi drivers, HGV drivers, bus drivers couriers, and warehouse workers involved in collection and loading.
- Employees who work evenings and weekends. Examples of this include those who work in hospitality, retail, security or monitoring.
We would like to thank Andrew J. Farrall CMIOSH FIIRSM AMIIAI MInstLM AIfL
Chartered Safety & Health Practitioner, for his contribution to this risk assessment blog which contains extracts from Managing Lone Worker Safety – A Managers Guide. To obtain your free copy click here.