What is meant by ‘lone worker’?

The term ‘lone worker’ is used to describe anyone, in any profession who works completely on their own.  Some examples of lone workers are GPs, health visitors, home care assistants, sales people and office personnel who work from home.

People often carry out lone working tasks, such as when carrying out home visits, or when members of staff work from their home computers. Workers may also find that at various times in the day they are in the workplace alone, which is also classed as lone working. When defining who is classed as lone workers, it is important to differentiate between people whose work activities are intended to be carried out without close supervision and those who may find themselves completely alone. However, it is good practice to consider the safety of all persons who are working alone, whether it is planned or not.

What are the legal requirements?

The law does not prohibit working alone except where specific legislation states that the hazards are too great for people to work unaccompanied. The specific legislation does not relate to general practice. However, general duties for lone workers exist under the following:

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

First Aid at Work Regulations 1981.

The responsibilities of employers to ensure the safety of lone workers are no different from those of employees who are closely supervised. Employers need to consider the specific hazards lone workers are exposed to and the risks that are involved.  Self-employed lone workers need to identify the hazards and risks to themselves.

Risk assessment

There is a general duty to carry out risk assessment for lone workers. This involves identifying hazards associated with the work: considering the risk factors, assessing the level of risk and determining safety measures aimed at removing or controlling the risk.  Some of the potential dangers to lone workers that need to be considered are physical violence, threatening behaviour, theft, criminal damage to equipment or vehicles, environmental factors and road traffic.

Employers need to ask themselves a number of questions.  Can one person working alone carry out the required activity safely? Does the work involve travelling to high risk locations? Is the lone worker a competent driver? Is their vehicle well maintained and serviced regularly?  Is their sufficient space for the worker and the necessary equipment?  They need to consider every factor that may affect the safety of the worker and put procedures in place to ensure any risk is minimised.

Duty of care

Employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees while they are at work. This responsibility is the same for lone workers as for any other member of staff. As shown, there may be additional hazards and risks involved in lone working. Therefore, it is necessary to look at possible ways of reducing the risks by implementing appropriate safety measures.

The use of mobile phone technology to monitor the safety of lone workers has been growing for the last few years and nowadays the courts usually penalise employers which have hesitated to take simple steps to ensure that vulnerable staff can never be overlooked in an emergency.  ‘Lookout call’ is the ideal automated solution for any employer seeking a solution which is easy and cheap to implement.

Please contact Lookout Call to discuss how you might protect your lone workers.