The Lone Worker Risk Assessment
Companies are responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff and other stakeholders in their business. In most countries, health and safety law stipulates that companies have a duty to assess the risks in the workplace (sometimes this is for employee numbers over a certain threshold). While staff and self-employed people also have responsibilities, this post addresses how employers should assess the risk for their lone workers.
Risk assessments, as the name implies, should address all risks that might cause harm in the workplace, and employers should inform their staff of the risks, how the company mitigates those risks, and train them accordingly. This sounds very reasonable, except that there are many different types of employee, and many different types of workplace.
An estimated 22% of workers are lone workers. Some work in their home offices. Some of them travel and work in relatively safe environments. And some of them work in vulnerable or dangerous environments. Furthermore, the workplace of the lone worker could also be outside, and in an isolated location.
So, how to go about performing a risk assessment for your company?
The 5 steps are:
Identify the hazards
Decide who might be harmed and how
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Record your significant findings
Review your assessment and update if necessary
This is a great approach for your facility, plant, warehouse or office, but with lone workers you also need to incorporate a range of other considerations:
The person: is the person healthy enough or otherwise physically or mentally able to comfortably fulfill this lone worker role? Do they have a medical or other condition that might increase the risk if they were in an isolated environment when it might take time to get to them? Are they non-native speakers and do they understand all the relevant processes and procedures in the company’s native language?
The role: is this a role that can be genuinely fulfilled by a lone worker, or is it better to be performed by a pair or a team? Most people would baulk at the idea of moving a 2- or 3-seater sofa on their own, for example. How much experience is needed to fulfill this role? Does the role have any gender, race, age, religion, disability, height, weight or sexual orientation considerations?
The situation: are some parts of the role performed high up, or in precarious, confined or remote locations? Is there a risk of threat, abuse or violence in this situation? Are hazardous materials involved? Is there a question of dangerous machinery or equipment?
The communication: what communication devices are required for each lone worker? What resilience or regulatory requirements are there for these devices? What communication functions do the devices need to perform? Are they dedicated or shared devices? What alarm and other sensory systems need to be in place? How should monitoring, alerting and responding work?
In this post we don’t have the luxury of going to the level of detail that this important subject warrants, so we’ve put together a collection of links to help you further. In the UK, the HSE provides a lot of information on risk assessments. There are no examples of assessments specifically for lone workers, but there are plenty of examples here from different industries and sectors that you can adapt for your own lone worker purposes.
Here's an example risk assessment for a relatively small warehouse, and here’s an example of what your resulting paperwork might look like. Remember that this is a generic example; it will not be suitable for your specific company or your specific lone workers. Your company is unique and so should be your risk assessment.
You can also refer to the Isle Systems FAQ area here. While the source material is the Health and Safety Authority in Ireland, the guidelines and advice apply equally to the UK and across the EU.
Contact us to discuss how best to implement your lone worker protection plan on the basis of your own risk assessments.