Lone Worker Policy
Our People Protection Experts will explore your unique lone worker situation and work with you to develop a legally compliant and safe solution
- Legally compliant
- Safest solutions
- Lone worker protection
- Tailored to your requirements
- Support and manage lone workers
- Creation of lone working policy
What Is Lone Working?
All employers have a duty of care to protect employees. This covers:
- making the workplace safe
- providing adequate first aid facilities
- ensuring plant and machinery are safe to use
But many employees in a variety of business sectors, from engineering and surveying to estate agents and social workers, spend much of their time working in the field away from traditional workplaces, either alone or with colleagues.
Below are some suggested solutions but don’t hesitate to contact us today for your free audit and bespoke solution for your business.
What Is a Lone Worker?
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers are “those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”.
Croner’s Health and Safety offers a wider definition. A lone worker is one “whose activities involve a large percentage of their working time operating in situations without the benefit of interaction with other workers or without supervision”.
And NHS guidance says the term lone worker is used to describe a “wide variety of staff who work, either regularly or occasionally, on their own, without access to immediate support from work colleagues, managers or others. This could be inside a hospital or similar environment or in a community setting”.
According to the HSE, lone workers might work alone in a fixed location such as:
- a small workshop
- petrol station
- home office
- leisure centre or fairground
- out of hours staff – cleaners, security, maintenance staff
Other lone workers are mobile workers working away from a fixed base, such as:
- plant installation and cleaning
- agricultural and forestry workers
- service workers such as postal staff
- social and medical workers
- estate agents
- sales or service representatives visiting domestic and commercial premises.
The Situation in the UK
Out of 31 million people in the UK working population, almost 7 million are considered lone workers.
This continues to rise, driven by advances in wireless communications technology and the rising cost of real estate forcing organisations to reduce their office space.
The world of work is changing, with traditional office-based workers increasingly spending more time working alone.
Work can be done alone from almost anywhere:
- home office
- on a train
- in a local coffee shop
It is worth noting that an employer’s Duty of Care still applies in all of these situations, and includes staff working from home during contracted hours.
Research suggests many lone workers are more productive and happier than their office-based counterparts. But employers face real challenges to ensure employees’ safety, especially given the stark threats.
- Estimated 649,000 incidents of violence at work p.a.
- Comprising 332,000 assaults and 317,000 threats
- 148 people were killed in the course of their work
Of course, not all the incidents involved lone working, but isolation can increase the risks to workers’ safety and security.
Risks of Lone Working
It is generally accepted that lone workers face increased risks to their safety and security.
The three main risks are:
- violence and aggression (physical and verbal), often from the very people the workers are trying to help
- occupational risks (such as slips, trips, falls, electrocution)
- personal wellbeing risks, including health issues caused by a known medical condition or brought about by being in stressful situations
The risks are different for each group of workers:
Public sector staff, transport staff and retail workers face threats of abuse or violence from members of the public (more than one in three working alone in the community has been assaulted or harassed in the last two years, according to research from the Royal College of Nursing).
Shop workers, security staff and warehouse workers might in addition be at further danger from the risk of robbery.
Engineers, construction workers and maintenance staff are at risk of an incident occurring by an accident or an underlying medical condition while working alone.
People working from home might suffer the psychological effects of loneliness and isolation.
An injury or illness can be disastrous for the individual and for the organisation.
Employees can suffer serious physical and mental repercussions, while the employer can be impacted through staff retention and recruitment costs; increased absenteeism through sickness; low productivity; litigation against the organisation; and negative publicity.
Legal Duties Towards Lone Workers
The law requires employers and others to think about, and deal with, any health and safety risks before people should be allowed to work alone.
Employer’s legal duties towards lone workers are set out under:
• The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974;
• The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999;
• The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a general duty to maintain safe working arrangements and can receive a fine of up to £20,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment for breaches of general duties. The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 amends the 1974 Act, increasing the penalties and providing courts with greater sentencing powers for those who breach health and safety legislation. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess and counter health and safety risks before allowing staff to work alone.
Corporate Manslaughter & Homicide Act 2007
Here the greatest emphasis and liability is on employers to protect lone workers. Companies can now be found guilty of corporate manslaughter for deaths arising from management failures which constituted a gross breach of a duty of care. And notably, the employer is guilty until proven innocent, so negligent employers can much more easily be convicted.
Since the act came into force there have been four prosecutions, and a large rise in the number of corporate manslaughter cases opening.
The first prosecution, in February 2011, was against Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings. Alex Wright, a geologist. He was on his own investigating soil conditions in a deep trench when it collapsed and killed him on 5 September 2008. The company was fined £385,000 under the act and had its appeal against conviction turned down.
As the above highlights the financial cost to an organisation is high; but there is also the risk of further financial loss from negative publicity to an organisations brand.
Managing the Risks
The HSE advises employers that they have a legal duty to notify and consult with safety representatives about the jobs of employees who work alone. These responsibilities cannot be transferred to any other person, including those people who work alone. It is the employer’s duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary.
Ignore the Problem
Ignoring the problem and risks completely can often have disastrous consequences.
E.g. A major lift company had no lone worker support in place when a lift engineer working alone in a lift shaft, fell, and later died. He wasn’t found for eight hours.
Organisations that ignore the risks can now be found guilty of corporate manslaughter, should the worst-case scenario unfold.
Review Work Patterns
Reviewing working patterns may help avoid risks where staff work alone.
E.g. Cleaners could work as a team across the facility instead of a floor each, in a system known as flow cleaning. Or consider daytime cleaning to avoid lone working.
This also encourages the building’s occupants to appreciate the service and those who provide it.
A buddy system is the equivalent of telling your friend where you’re going to meet a new date.
Lone workers tell another colleague where they will be and agree to phone back within a set period of time.
They may forget though, and if they do call in an emergency, their colleague may not be trained or able to support them.
A whiteboard is placed in a prominent position in the office to record names, locations, schedules, and mobile numbers of all lone workers.
On arrival in the office, lone workers update their schedule on the board so that should an incident occur, the organisation knows their whereabouts.
The downside is that the whiteboard may only be monitored in office hours (whereas the lone worker may work unsocial hours) and people forget/ don’t have time to update the board. An up-to-date and accurate whiteboard is a rare occurrence in most offices.
For compliance, and to manage risks of supporting lone workers mobile technology is being adopted by many – from local authorities to blue-chip organisations
- less costly solution
- acts as back-up
- various options
- varying levels of protection – risk dependent
Specialist devices or smartphone apps contain emergency keys and safety sensors. This detects falls, impacts, extended lack of movement or loss of vertical position, and raise the alarm even if the worker can’t press any buttons.
Lone Worker Training
The HSE advises that lone workers should be capable of responding correctly to emergencies.
This can be achieved through adequate training including training in established emergency procedures.
Information regarding a premises emergency procedures and danger areas should be given to lone workers.
They should have access to adequate first-aid facilities, and mobile workers should carry a first-aid kit suitable for treating minor injuries. First aid training should be given to lone workers as highlighted by a risk assessment
The two relevant industry standards for lone worker protection in the UK are British Standards BS8484 and BS5979 CAT ll.
BS8484 covers the quality and suitability of key components used for the protection of lone workers, including devices, the service provider, the monitoring and the response are required for the delivery of a robust and effective lone worker solution. Police throughout England, Wales and NI require accreditation to BS8484 and monitoring via a BS5979 Cat ll ARC in order to guarantee a response.
Any communications technology is only as good as the centre monitoring and responding to calls. BS5979 covers the management and operation of Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC). It has two categories (CATI and CATII). An ARC operating to BS5979 CATII, such as that run by Orbis on the Wirral, provides more physical security to cater for high security monitoring applications and ensures that the appropriate level of response required is available
Introducing lone working protection technology enhances staff welfare and productivity: staff are likely to be more efficient and productive if they know they are safe during their working day; there are clear efficiency gains as the same services can be completed with the same or less staff; and because employees feel well supported and well looked after, they have higher job satisfaction and greater loyalty to their employer.
From the perspective of the organisation, the moral and ethical codes have changed. Boards now have a responsibility to protect their workforce where possible – or in the eyes of the law to “take reasonable actions to avoid harm”. In many cases, this requirement can be fulfilled by providing staff with low-cost, technology-based solutions.
The benefit of lone working support was demonstrated when a female parking attendant in Bristol was subjected to a tirade of abuse and threats while issuing a parking notice to a driver who had parked illegally in a disabled bay near the city centre.
She pressed the dedicated panic button on her ruggedised mobile phone and within seconds she was discreetly connected via the Vodafone network to a response team operator at Orbis’s BS5979 Cat II Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), with all audio being recorded. The operator remained on the line and began to initiate the pre-agreed emergency response procedure set by Bristol City Council. The man was later arrested and found to be in possession of several knives. The police commended the quality of the audio captured between the device and the digital recorders, and were confident of upgrading the severity of the offence and securing a conviction.
All employers have a duty of care to their staff. Supporting those who often work alone will not only protect them, it may just protect your reputation and business.
Organisations must have systems in place to assess the risk of certain activities and introduce a safety culture that operates organisation-wide. Businesses that fail to create a strong safety policy by not addressing the welfare of vulnerable staff, such as lone workers, face onerous fines and severe reputational damage if the worst happens.
1. Assess the Risk
Identify and categorise the job roles performed as low, medium or high risk. Identify any staff who may have an increased risk due to any underlying medical conditions.
2. Assess the Solutions
Can you use your current technology or you need to invest in new devices? Ideally opt for a 24/7 monitoring centre that is accredited to BS 8484 and BS5979 Cat ll.
3. Implement the Product
Introduce your technology solution as part of a change in safety culture. The services and solution have to be embedded in your organisation’s culture and result in a real change in staff behaviour. For just a just small investment in time and money, the return can be substantial.
4. Assessment and Audit
Continually analyse your solution’s effectiveness. Encourage internal staff to monitor and give feedback/ suggestions to encourage behaviour change from within, not just from the top down
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust help and support people to stay safe from violence and aggression through the provision of free safety tips, they also manage the National Stalking Helpline and delivering community projects.
The main law governing health and safety at work in the United Kingdom is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act). This places general duties on you to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure health and safety. The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for ensuring these laws are followed, they offer free support and advise for employers.
The BSIA’s Lone Worker Section consists of BSIA members who specialise in providing lone worker safety products and services to customers from a wide range of industry backgrounds.