Is Your Lone Worker Policy ‘Fit for Purpose’ in 2016?

Helen Down: Director of StaySafe

Helen Down: Director of StaySafe

Right now, I’m lone working. Granted, the security of my home office probably isn’t causing my employer sleepless nights, but I’m lone working nonetheless. Lone workers come in many different guises, and with new Sentencing Council guidelines for breaches of Duty of Care coming into force on Monday 1 February, it has arguably never been more pertinent for employers to widen their definition of ‘lone worker’ and understand the risks such employees confront on a daily basis, writes Helen Down.

Being a lone worker doesn’t necessarily mean working in complete isolation. While the term is commonly associated with anyone working away from other colleagues, lone workers may very well operate in highly populated areas or alongside clients and customers.

They may only spend part of their day alone, perhaps while travelling between meetings or working out of earshot of other people on a building site.

In days gone by, I’ve heard these employees referred to as ‘accidental lone workers’. That description is very apt. It’s this group of employees that are not always considered within lone working policies, but as legislation and sentencing evolves, it’s wise for employers to take a closer look at their entire workforce and their working patterns in order to check that everyone’s covered.

Pinpointing the main risks

What, then, are the main risks involved with lone working?

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Health and Safety Statistics Annual Report for Great Britain 2014-2015 recently revealed the most commonly cited risk factors employees face in the workplace. The report outlines the findings of a national survey of workplaces employing five or more employees.

It emerges that the biggest risk factor across all workplaces is ‘dealing with difficult customers, patients and pupils’ (65%), which the HSE itself has highlighted as a potential risk in terms of threats and violence towards employees.

Physical risks – including lifting/moving (59%), chemical/biological substances (52%), repetitive movements and slips (50%) and trips and falls (49%) – make up the majority of the other risks listed.

Being a lone worker doesn’t increase the likelihood of the majority of the risks outlined above – although employees are more vulnerable when dealing with difficult people alone – but it does mean that, if an incident occurs, there isn’t anyone else to de-escalate the situation or summon help.

Steps to be taken

As an employer, how can you protect your employees who work or travel alone? There are a number of steps which could be taken in order to reduce both the chances of an incident occurring and the severity of the outcome.

Risk assessments

Risk assessments should be carried out before and after a lone worker enters their field of operation in order to ascertain whether it’s safe to send them out alone and underpin the development of a policy for dealing with potential risks.

Talk to line managers who are closer to the business’ day-to-day working patterns and think outside of traditional lone working roles. Are there other employees who could be vulnerable?

Tailored lone worker policy

In truth, a blanket policy is rarely sufficient. Policies on dealing with risk should be tailored to each individual lone working task.

Employee training

Training can be extremely helpful in providing lone workers with an understanding of the risks they face and how to deal with them. Whether this is how to operate a piece of machinery safely or de-escalating an uncomfortable client situation, there are many training programmes available that can be tailored to your individual business’ needs.

Lone worker monitoring

As part of the company’s lone worker policy, the employer may choose to implement a monitoring system. While many businesses already operate a ‘buddy’ or check-in system, monitoring solutions – such as tracking devices, panic buttons and apps – can provide both a reliable and time-effective solution for lone worker safety.

While monitoring doesn’t prevent accidents or incidents from happening, it’s extremely effective in limiting the severity of a situation by providing immediate contact and allowing for a much quicker emergency response time.

Helen Down is Director of StaySafe

www.staysafeapp.com

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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