Lone Working: An Employer’s Duty of Care

With a new generation of employees entering the workforce, the traditional methods of working are also changing. The introduction of flexible and lone working has changed the typical 9 to 5 grind most employees face. 

But with that comes some management challenges, their health and safety. Most countries have laws in place to addresses this. In the United Kingdom for example, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999), every employer has a duty of care to their employees. 

This means they must take every step to ensure they’re protecting the health and safety of their workers.

This duty of care also applies to your lone workers. According to legislation, you’re required to carefully consider and deal with any areas considered a risk to their health, safety and wellbeing. 

While your duty of care is a legal obligation, it shouldn’t be thought of as such. If done effectively, performing your obligations can also bring big business benefits.

In this piece, we’ll define lone workers and highlight your legal obligations to your employees.

Who are lone workers? 

It’s anyone that works in isolation with limited supervision. The workforce is constantly changing and as the internet becomes more widely accessible, employers must be able to adapt to these changes to attract top talent.

Depending on the industry, this could be anything from a community nurse making home visits to an electric company employee carrying out maintenance on meters. Other examples include:

  • Estate agents.
  • Salespeople. 
  • Site workers.
  • Postal staff.
  • Self-employed.
  • Utilities employees (meter readers, maintenance staff).
  • Construction workers (surveyors, site workers, inspectors).
  • Mobile workers (drivers, care/social workers, probation officers, service engineers etc.).
  • People working outside of the normal working hours (Security guards, cleaners etc.). 

Your responsibilities for lone workers

Your first duty is to assess the risks to your employees working alone and take reasonable steps to avoid or control them. The process involves:

  • Communicate with your employee on the potential risks of working alone and come up with a plan to control any identified issues. It’s worth noting by law you’re required to consult all your staff on health and safety matters. 
  • Implementing procedures to ensure that risks are removed and control measures are in place.
  • Training, instructing and supervising the employee on lone working procedures.
  • Reviewing risk assessments periodically or after major changes to work practices.

While there’re many advantages of lone working, it also presents some risks to employers and employees alike. Your lone workers shouldn’t be put at more risk compared to your other workers. 

In order to reduce risks, consider the following measures:

  • Training employees on the risks involved with certain work activities and lone working as a whole. 
  • An appropriate supervision process. 
  • Adequate emergency and evacuation procedures. 
  • An effective communication routine between supervisor and lone worker. 

Remember, the health and safety system you have in place for them will be different from the one in place for your office employees.

Training for lone workers

Training is essential for these types of workers especially those with little to no supervision to control and guide certain situations. You may also consider training that enables them to cope with unexpected circumstances and manage issues effectively.

Because your lone workers don’t have immediate access to their supervisors or other more experienced co-workers, providing them with extra training can come in handy to understand the risks involved in their work.

It’s also a good idea to put a lone working policy in place. The policy sets out what can and can’t be done while working alone. You should ensure your employees fully understand and follow the policy and procedures.

Conclusion

Your duty of care as an employer is an ongoing issue and not just a one-off event. 

Remember to review your lone worker policy often and update to account for any changes to employee duties, legislation and business trends. 

Finally, remember to carry out regular reviews of risks assessments. This is especially important after any significant changes to the employee’s work environment. 

Guest Written by Health Assured. – Health Assured is the UK and Ireland’s most trusted health and wellbeing network, making a positive difference to over 10 million lives.

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