As a business owner you may need staff to work on their own due to shift patterns or if they are mobile and travel from location to location. People often believe that lone working is not allowed under UK Health & Safety law. This is not true although it would be reasonable to say that working in a dangerous environment without any appropriate safeguards would not be a good idea.
To identify how to protect lone workers it is necessary to complete a risk assessment to establish what are the risks and what control measures need to be in place. There are a number of factors to consider when looking at lone working risks:
Access and egressForeseeable emergency situations eg fire, illness or accidentThe risk of violenceThe competence level, and health, of the lone workerThe use of dangerous machineryUsing electricityThe length of the shift including if outside normal working hoursThe employees involved should also be consulted as they have valuable information on what actually happens and can suggest possible safety measures.
Once the risks have been identified, appropriate control measures need to be implemented. Measures such as training, instruction, monitoring, personal protective equipment and the possible provision of safety devices to detect non-movement can all be considered.
Training is important when there will be limited or no supervision. Lone workers should be experienced enough to understand the risks involved and aware of the actions they are required to complete to keep themselves safe, and any actions they cannot complete for their safety.
In some high risk environments, lone working may not be possible and the risk assessment will help identify the level of supervision required. In some activities a supervisor may be required and possibly a person dedicated to a rescue role. Specific lone working laws exist for certain activities such as confined spaces, diving, fumigation works and carrying explosives which as you would expect carry a very high level of risk.
Health Surveillance is a key part to ensuring lone workers are fit enough to work on their own. It would make sense that someone with a heart condition or history of asthma is not left on their own just in case a situation arises where falling ill would substantially increase the risk of a major injury.
Lone workers need to be trained in emergency procedures and should have these tested on a regular basis so that they remain as calm as possible should a real situation arise.
Overall lone working is possible provided relevant precautions have been taken. It is worth considering any lone working in your business to establish if you are doing everything you can to protect your staff.
Nigel J Welford is a qualified Health & Safety professional and believes in making health and safety as simple as possible whilst still being effective and meeting all the regulations. For his free report "The Secret To How Health & Safety Can Improve Your Business And Profits: 7 Everyday Pitfalls To Avoid" from http://www.healthandsafetyintheworkplace.com
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