How to ensure the health and safety of lone workers

How to ensure the health and safety of lone workers
Alastair Barrett
Alastair BarrettWhat No Safety Services Ltd

Posted: Thu 15th Feb 2024

As our workplace environments continue to evolve, the concept of lone working is becoming increasingly prevalent. Whether it concerns employees working remotely, in isolated locations or during non-standard hours, the health and safety of lone workers demands special attention.

For businesses, prioritising the wellbeing of solo workers is not just a legal obligation but a moral imperative. Let’s explore key considerations, protective measures and essential policies to safeguard our lone workers and promote a secure work environment for them.

Employers have a legal obligation to protect their lone working staff and this also applies to those working for them as contractors, freelancers or as self-employed.

When things go wrong, we usually rely on others for help. However, lone workers may not have that luxury, so it's vital to be prepared.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Lone workers may be exposed to work-related road risks or violence

  • Lone workers may be working in an isolated, rural area or dealing with stressful calls

Employers should take these risks into account and keep in regular contact with their workers to ensure their safety.

Understanding the risks

Lone working presents unique challenges that require a nuanced approach to health and safety. Unlike those working in teams, solo workers lack access to immediate assistance or supervision, amplifying the consequences of accidents or emergencies.

Common risks include accidents, injuries, violence, stress-related issues and medical emergencies. Recognising these risks is the first step toward developing effective policies and practices.

Key considerations

1. Risk assessments

Conduct a thorough risk assessment for tasks performed by lone workers. Identify potential hazards and assess the likelihood and severity of incidents. This assessment should encompass the work environment, the nature of the work and the health and wellbeing of the individual.

2. Communication protocols

Establish robust communication channels between lone workers and the main workplace. Utilise technology, such as mobile phones, two-way radios or lone worker safety devices. Regular check-ins, especially during high-risk activities, contribute to a swift response in case of emergencies.

3. Training and competency

Provide comprehensive training for lone workers, focusing on risk awareness, emergency procedures and the use of safety equipment. Ensure that individuals are competent in the tasks they are assigned to do and capable of responding to potential hazards effectively.

4. Personal safety devices

Equip lone workers with personal safety devices or alarms that can be activated in emergencies. These devices can be integral in summoning help quickly, especially in situations where verbal communication may be challenging.

5. Health and wellbeing

Prioritise the mental and physical health of lone workers. Isolation can contribute to stress and other wellbeing issues. Implement measures, such as regular health check-ups, access to support services and clear guidelines for managing stress.

Protective policies

1. Lone working policy

Develop a dedicated lone working policy that outlines your organisation's commitment to the safety of solo workers. This policy should define who qualifies as a lone worker, the specific risks associated with their tasks and the measures in place to mitigate these risks.

2. Emergency response plan

Clearly articulate an emergency response plan tailored for lone workers. This plan should include procedures for summoning help, contacting emergency services and providing first aid. Ensure that lone workers are familiar with and have easy access to this plan.

3. Communication policy

Establish a communication policy that mandates regular check-ins for lone workers. Specify the communication methods to be used, the frequency of check-ins and the escalation process in case of communication failures.

4. Training and induction

Integrate lone worker safety training into the onboarding process for new employees and provide refresher courses regularly. This training should cover the specific risks associated with their role, the use of safety equipment and emergency response procedures.

5. Health and wellbeing support

Include provisions for the mental and physical wellbeing of lone workers in your occupational health and safety policies. This can encompass access to counselling services, stress management resources and measures to combat social isolation.

Lone workers may be self-sufficient and independent people but this doesn't mean employers should leave them to handle everything alone. Ensure your team knows they can approach you for support when they need it. Communicating with your team is vital to ensure their safety and a job well done.

Relevant resources

Alastair Barrett
Alastair BarrettWhat No Safety Services Ltd

You might also like…

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.