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30th March 2016

Lone workers – guidance on your obligations as an employer

On 9 August 2011, a heating engineer for a maintenance business was found dead in the plant room of a property he had been working on in isolation.

The previous day, he had checked in with his supervisor prior to commencing work – work which involved working at height from scaffolding.

It wasn’t until the morning after that his supervisor realised that he was missing.

Following investigation, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), fined his employer £37,000 and ordered them to pay £75,000 costs.

There were three counts of negligence on the part of the employer, including not having correctly assessed the lone working element of the employee’s operations that day, and not having an appropriate Lone Working policy in place.

So what can you do to prevent situations like this occurring in your business?

The HSE issue a specific guidance note – ‘Working Alone – INDG73’ to assist with identifying, assessing and implementing a lone worker safe system of work.

Who?

First of all you need to identify who is classed as a lone worker. These are generally people who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. This could include a range of occupations such as:

  • Cleaners working outside business hours
  • Factory workers in isolated areas
  • Site engineers
  • People working as mobile workers working away from their fixed base

How?

The next step is to identify how you control risks to these people. As an employer, you have a duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary.

There are various elements that would need to be considered in this including:

  • involving workers when considering measures to control them
  • taking steps to remove risks where possible or putting in place relevant controls
  • instruction, training and supervision
  • being aware that some tasks may not be able to be carried out by an unaccompanied worker
  • including a provision for communication with and monitoring of lone workers

This assessment should then help you decide on the right level of supervision, monitoring and ‘checking out’ procedures.

There are other factors which may come in to consideration for Lone Workers, including:

  • Language
  • Medical Conditions
  • Equipment being utilised – can one person operate it safely?
  • Vulnerability
  • Are chemical or hazardous substances being utilised?
  • Is there a risk of violence/aggression

Once devised, a risk assessment should be communicated regularly to relevant employees, with monitoring systems installed to ensure individuals are working within its’ guidance.

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