Guide To Lone Working
What is lone working?
A lone worker is anyone who carries out a work activity away from colleagues and without close or direct supervision. Research commissioned by EE and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust suggests that lone working could apply to as many as 71% of workers, whether all or part of their day is spent working alone.
Types of lone workers
Lone workers can operate across any industry and occupation from housing and healthcare to utilities and construction. Some examples of lone working staff include;
- Estate agent lone workers
- NHS lone workers
- Meter readers
- Social workers
- Housing association lone workers
- Social workers
- Retail staff and keyholders
- Construction workers
- Sales people
Hazards of working alone
There are many hazards of lone working. Working alone carries increased risk because any dangers faced are encountered alone. For example, should a lone working employee become ill, have an accident or suffer an injury there isn’t anyone to assist them. In addition, working alone can make you more vulnerable to violence, theft or antisocial behaviour as you may be seen as an easier target.
Different types of employees face different hazards of lone working. NHS staff, social workers and security personnel may be faced with challenging behaviour from the public; estate agents and utility workers have to enter properties alone and salespeople can spend a lot of time on the road putting them at a higher risk of road traffic accidents. Construction workers, engineers and surveyors are especially vulnerable to accidents or injury on site.
It is important that lone worker risk assessments are carried out for each individual job role and environment to ensure that the full picture of risks is understood and planned for.
How high risk is 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.