Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

Author Bio ▼

Ian joined Informa (formerly UBM) in 2018 as the Editor of Safety & Health Practitioner. Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in business to business trade print media, in the automotive sector. He was Online Editor and then moved on to be the Editor of two publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.
April 1, 2020

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Lone Working

Guide to lone Working: HSE guidance updated

Working by yourself in a remote location presents a set of challenges both for employers and the lone workers. It is estimated that there are eight million lone workers in the UK which represents about 20% of the UK workforce. On this content hub, SHP brings you the latest lone working guidance.

What is lone working?

The HSE classifies a lone worker as ‘someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision‘, and this incorporates a wide range of job roles. As well as home workers and remote workers, such employees as engineers, construction workers and field technicians whose role does not permit them to work at home are becoming increasingly familiar with lone working, with reduced capacities, staggered shift patterns and other such social distancing measures seeing employees frequently coming into situations where they work alone or without direct supervision for extended periods of time.

The HSE states that, as an employer, it is your duty to manage any health and safety risks before you allow people to work alone. This applies to anyone contracted to work for you, including self-employed people.

Lone worker risks

Risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

Working from home

home officeYou have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers and the same liability for accident or injury as for any other workers. This means you must provide supervision, education and training, as well as implementing enough control measures to protect the homeworker.

Writing for SHP in 2018, Worthwhile Training‘s Nicole Vazquez suggested employers need to be aware that their home workers are lone workers and should be treated as such, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

During the coronavirus pandemic, when many employees that were perhaps not used to working from home were required to work remotely, SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company put together a home working content hub, to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future.

Around 8.7 million people said that they worked from home in 2019 – less than 30% of the UK workforce – according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics. The same survey also reported that only 1.7 million regularly worked from home. This means employers and employees should be aware of occupational health and safety in the home.

Click here for SHP’s guide to home working.

Find out more on home working from the HSE.

Updates to HSE Guidance on Lone Working – Policies and Procedures Explained

In March 2020, the HSE updated its Protecting Lone Workers: How to Manage the Risks of Working Alone guidance document, which advises employers and employees on the factors that need to be considered when assessing and managing the risks to lone workers’ health, safety and wellbeing.

What must an employer of a lone worker do?

Despite lone working being a completely legal procedure, employers need to ensure that the health, safety and wellbeing of lone workers is taken as seriously as it is for those employees based permanently on work premises/in near constant contact with their supervisors and fellow colleagues. Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of lone workers as far as is reasonably practicable under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, as well as being legally required to assess and manage the risks to lone working employees under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Lone workers should be accommodated within an employer‘s general workplace risk assessment, with policies put in place to control, mitigate and remove the level of risk they face when working alone. As part of a lone working risk assessment checklist, employers must assess, monitor and review such factors as manual handling, illness, fire safety, slips, trips and falls, equipment failure and violence, implementing a range of control measures that apply to each individual employees’ lone working environment that will help to reduce and eliminate such risks.

While those who are lone working face the same health and safety risks as any other employee, there is a greater risk of these hazards causing harm, as lone workers may not have anyone to provide help or support in the event of an incident. Employers need to be aware of this heightened level of risk, and as a result, all organisations are legally required to regularly review and update their lone working procedures and risk assessments for lone workers to safeguard their health and wellbeing.

What is a lone worker policy?

While employers are accountable for implementing lone worker policies and procedures, lone workers are equally responsible for understanding and following them. As well as ensuring a positive safety culture, a lone working policy clearly define employees’ responsibilities and outline any guidance for reporting incidents. Examples of lone work procedures for employees include attending any training issued by the employer, identifying and reporting incidents, accidents and near misses and carrying a monitoring or safety device when required.

What are the key updates within the HSE’s Protecting Lone Workers guidance document?

lone-worker-maintenance

major area of focus for the HSE’s Lone Working updated guidance document is that of employees’ mental health, particularly the impact of lone working on stress and wellbeing. Not only does working alone have a higher chance of invoking feelings of isolation and disconnect due to the lack of social contact and the physical presence of colleagues, but it can also mean that employers are unable to detect the warning signs of an employee who may be experiencing or at risk of experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

In light of its latest annual statistics report, in which the HSE discusses the increase in work-related stress, depression and anxiety in the UK in recent years, the new lone working guidance calls for employers to pay closer attention to the mental health of lone workers, with support systems in place to ensure that managers keep in close contact with their employees. Employers have a legal duty to support their lone workers and look after their mental health in the workplace by carrying out risk assessments, modifying lone working environments accordingly to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to help keep feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety at bay. This includes the implementation of procedures that allow direct contact between a lone worker and their line manager.

In line with this, the HSE guidance document has also been updated as to how managers should maintain contact with lone workers. Technological advances mean that there is no end to the number of ways in which employers can maintain a strong level of communication and monitor those who are lone working, supervising their workload and checking in with them. Employers should regularly keep in touch via pre-agreed meetings, include lone working employees in social events inside and outside of work, update and consult them on any changes they may be affected by and provide training as and when required.

The final update to the HSE guidance document is how to protect lone workers against the risk of work-related violence. While all employees are technically at risk from violence in the workplace, concerns regarding the vulnerability of lone workers often arise from the fact that they cannot always call on support to prevent an incident from occurring or immediately notify their employers if one has occurred. Recommended lone working procedures to safeguard employees against the risk of violence include employee training on personal safety and the provision of safety equipment that can be operated manually or automatically to raise the alarm if an incident occurs.

Online training

With certain social distancing guidelines set to remain in place for the foreseeable future, it is more important than ever for employers to maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of lone workers during these uncertain times. As a result, health & safety testing, inspection and compliance services firm SOCOTEC is providing a range of related online training courses on mental health and wellbeing, providing employers and lone working employees alike with guidance and support on such topics as mindfulness, resilience and stress awareness.

Providing additional safeguards for lone workers

Lone workers are more prone to work-related accidents, due to their prolonged exposure to environmental factors and the lack of supervision. Businesses have a responsibility to make sure they protect their employees who work alone by identifying the work hazards and setting up lone worker safety procedures to prevent possible accidents and injuries. By law, employers have a legal duty to assess all risks to health and safety and provide a safe work environment for all their employees. However, most business owners tend to ignore the regulations and not having appropriate safety measures in place to protect these workers can have a very costly effect on businesses. Fortunately for business owners, we live in an age of innovation where personal safety is one of the leading technological fields. Personal tracking technology created a plethora of devices and applications that can be used in the business world to keep track of employees and improve their safety.

Lone worker solution

lone-worker-technician

As with any other lone worker safety solution, there are certain steps to take to establish a secure work environment. Training the employees about the potential dangers they may face in the field is the first step. Informed personnel is less likely to be involved in accidents, and they know what to do in case of emergencies.

Lone worker APPs help to provide additional safety for employees who work in distant, remote job sites. Technicians, service agents, miners and people of similar professions are required to work without any contact with other people for hours during their shifts. Because of the solitary work conditions, any serious accidents that might happen can lead to devastating consequences if not responded in a timely manner.

Lone worker device

Emergency situations are always time sensitive, and it is important to send medical help as quickly as possible. A lone worker APP offers effective tools that can help reduce the response times drastically. Geofence zones, real-time location tracking, man down alarm and timed sessions are only a few of the prominent tools managers can use to increase the safety of their staff. Geofence zones can be utilized as an early warning system as well as to check the arrival and departures times of the employees to the job site. Once breached, a geofence zone issues an alert to the responsible supervisor. Field managers can check if the breach is according to schedule or an unplanned movement. If the employee has indeed left the job site untimely, the manager can contact the employee to find out if it is an emergency situation. These virtual perimeters enhance safety and allow business managers to determine if an employee is efficient or spends more time than they are supposed on a job order.

Click here to read more on providing additional safeguards for lone workers.

What3words

In 2020, Thames Water became the latest company to announce it was to start using the What3words smartphone app to provide more accurate, pinpoint location information across its vast away of sites. This followed a report in 2019 that the police had urged everyone to download the What3words app, saying it had already been used to help save lives.

What3words has divided the world into 57 trillion 3m by 3m squares and given each a unique three word ‘address’. It means, a person’s exact location can be pinpointed, more accurately than a street name or postcode, in the event of an emergency. The caller can simply describe precisely where help is needed, using just three words.

The app is free to download for both iOS and Android phones and, once installed, does not need an online connection to work. The three-word format also works anywhere in the world, in 36 languages.

Eight apps for lone workers

A smartphone is a great tool to help lone workers maintain contact with their supervisor or employer, whilst also also enabling them to access a range of apps on a lone worker device they are familiar with – and this can play an important role in their safety.

Here are a range of apps, covering a wide range of industries, which every lone worker should have available on their smartphone.

Lone working resources

Doubling maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker

Anyone who assaults or attacks emergency workers could face longer jail terms, following the announcement of a consultation on doubling the maximum penalty for the offence.

A guide to home working

Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home and, in the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily.

Falling bales account for 5% of farm workplace deaths

The summer months are a busy time for farmers and contractors, who will be working to make, transport and stack bales of silage, hay and straw. Bales are a vital method of conserving winter feed and providing bedding, but it is also important to remember that these activities have many safety risks.

Send For Help recognised in Sunday Times tracker for solutions provided during COVID-19 crisis

Specialist lone worker technology business, Send For Help, has been listed in the Sunday Times Profit Track league table Covid-19 edition, recognising the vital solutions that the company is providing to support the safety of lone workers across the UK during the current health crisis.

Vatix: Lone working guide

This guide covers everything employers need to think about, to write their lone worker health and safety documents.

Over half of Brits are happy to work from home for as long as is needed

New research has revealed that 52% of Brits are happy to continue working from home for as long as is required. However, some 37% admit that they are starting to feel the pressure and 6% admit to already finding this new way of life a struggle.

Government launches plan to tackle loneliness during coronavirus lockdown

The Government has launched a major effort to tackle loneliness and social isolation during the coronavirus outbreak and period of social distancing. The plan will aim to ensure that, for people of all ages and backgrounds, staying at home does not need to lead to loneliness.

Bringing coronavirus criminals to justice

A number of people who have spat or coughed at emergency workers, or exploited coronavirus for their own gain, have been charged and prosecuted. The CPS have provided a sample of some of the cases which the CPS has charged and prosecuted recently.

Home working for young workers

While the world battles COVID-19, everyone who can is now having to work from home. For young workers and their managers this may present additional considerations and challenges to be overcome.

‘Coronavirus coughs’ at key workers will be charged as assault, CPS warns

Anyone using coronavirus to threaten emergency and essential workers faces serious criminal charges, the Director of Public Prosecutions has warned.

Severn Trent Water streamlines communication and critical alert processes with dedicated digital radio platform

Water authority sought to resolve communication challenges, health and safety risks for lone workers caused by poor mobile coverage across its sites and efficient management of critical site alarms.

Man jailed for assault of emergency worker after using threat of coronavirus to avoid arrest

A man who assaulted an emergency worker and told police he had coronavirus to try to avoid being arrested has been jailed for 31 weeks.

Webinar: Mental health & wellbeing and looking after remote workers

Catch up with our most recent webinar, which looked at health & wellbeing in the workplace. With many employers advising staff work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, it also covered how period of self-isolation or prolonged time working from home can affect health & wellbeing and require a different approach from managers.

Home working: Employee factsheet

If you work from home, your employer must make sure there is a risk assessment of your work activities. With the current government guidelines in place, HSE says it is not necessary for someone to visit you, but you should complete a questionnaire and provide appropriate evidence e.g. photographs. This will help decide if sufficient steps have been taken to prevent harm to you or anyone else who may be affected by your work.

Home working: Directors briefing

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of all employees, including home workers.

Home working essentials for managers

This handy guide from Barbour EHS details what managers should consider while employees are temporarily working from home.

Home working: A Barbour guide

This Barbour EHS guide includes: Legal requirements of home working, Benefits of working from home, Successful working from home, Pitfalls of working from home, Managing home workers and Arrangements for securing health & safety at home.

‘Toxic culture’ in English fire services, according to new report

Fire services in England suffer from a “toxic” culture, with some firefighters not treating colleagues with “enough humanity”.

Up to 50 prosecutions for assaults on emergency workers every day, according to CPS

In the first year of legislation making attacks on emergency workers a specific offence, The Crown Prosecution Service says it has prosecuted more than 50 assaults a day.

Top ten tips for lone working over the festive period

As the countdown to Christmas begins it’s important to remember the added risks this time of year can bring. It’s

Orbis Protect joins forces with TBS to provide single access point for lone workers

A new partnership between technology and management solutions company have produced a new solution for lone workers protection.

Sexual harassment: How employers can protect themselves against claims

Some practical advice on how employers can protect themselves from sexual harassment claims.

Gloucestershire police to get body cameras

Gloucestershire Constabulary said all frontline officers will be wearing REVEAL body cameras by the end of April.

More than 100 shop workers attacked every day

British Retail Consortium’s annual Retail Crime Survey says that the use of knives has become a “significant concern”.

Lone workers: Unite Students promoting a positive safety culture for all

SoloProtect offers discreet device that allows lone workers to carry out their duties safely and with peace of mind.

Serco violence campaign launched to protect frontline staff

Serco has launched a zero-tolerance campaign designed to protect all of its frontline staff from violence, aggression and abuse.

Violence in the NHS: One in five NHS staff experience harassment at work

Just under one in five NHS staff have personally having experienced harassment, bullying or abuse at work from other colleagues, according to a new survey.

Protecting shop workers from threats and violence

There are signs that a growing number of shopkeepers and others working in retail are facing assaults and threats from customers.

Shining a light on sexual harassment at work

What constitutes sexual harassment at work?

New lone worker app launches

The Companion application has been developed by the Glasgow-based company to utilise a range of smart phone features to ensure employees working alone are safe from danger. 

Sexual harassment in public has become ‘relentless’, MPs warn

A report by the Women and Equalities Parliamentary Select Committee warns that harassment on the street, and in bars, buses and trains is ‘deeply ingrained in our culture’ and its damage is ‘far reaching’.

New York police recall body cameras after explosion

In a statement, the police department said a Vievu model LE-5 body-worn camera worn by an officer exploded during a late-night tour on Sunday evening.

Lone worker safety: Re-inventing the wheel

A look at the impact of stress on lone workers, as well as the notion that some businesses don’t realise they have lone workers in their ranks.

Body cameras issued to Central Bedfordshire Council staff

A total of 21 wearable cameras will be worn by staff, including parking, anti-social behaviour and environmental protection officers from 11 October onwards.

HSE awards lone worker device contract

Safe Shores Monitoring has been awarded a contract by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to provide lone worker protection devices to some of its staff.

Home worker or lone worker?

Worthwhile Training’s Nicole Vazquez suggests employers need to be aware that their home workers are lone workers and should be treated as such, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

Review calls for tougher safety rules for minicab drivers

An independent review has called for tougher regulations and rules for taxi drivers to ensure minicab safety, following a series of attacks on passengers.

Local authority launches body-worn camera consultation

Torbay Council has launched a public consultation on whether its staff should have body-worn cameras. The council started trialling the

Prison sentences to double for attacks on emergency staff

Government announces new law to help protect workers. Anyone who attacks an emergency service worker will be jailed for twice as long, under a new law which is bring brought in to crackdown on abuse.

‘We’re going to disrupt the existing market for lone worker safety’: In conversation with Leo Scott Smith from Tended.

There has been an explosion in the number of lone worker safety devices coming to market recently, which aim to

Police chiefs pledge to ‘root out’ sexual harassment

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has promised to act over high levels of sexual harassment among staff after a new report revealed the scale of the issue.

Providing additional safeguards for lone workers

According to Ekim Saribardak, from Rewire Security, lone workers are more prone to work-related accidents, due to their prolonged exposure to environmental factors and the lack of supervision. Almost 150 lone workers are verbally or physically assaulted every day for no other reason than their line of work.

Cheshire police officers to receive body camera training

All frontline police officers in Cheshire are to be trained on how to use the force’s new body-worn video (BWV) cameras.

Four reasons why emergency services should wear body cameras

Many police constabularies across the UK have been wearing body worn cameras for several years and now other organisations have begun to adopt them, especially those that employ lone workers. 

MPs call for action to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace

A group of MPs has called on the Government to introduce a new duty on employers to prevent harassment at work.

Get your free ticket to Workplace Wellbeing Show

Search for solutions, guidance and expertise surrounding the critical issue of mental and physical health in the workplace, and join HR and wellbeing professionals at Workplace Wellbeing Show, taking place from 18–20 May 2021 at ExCeL, London.

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