Lone working policy guide and checklists
An informative guide to policies and procedures for employers or managers of lone workers.
Lone workers require their own policies and procedures to ensure they are protected from any lone worker risks and hazards. This guide aims to explain what a lone working policy is, what to include in your lone worker policy and how to go about creating one.
Lone working policy
Following on from your risk assessment, you will need to produce a safety policy for your lone workers. A lone working safety policy is a guide that will set out your companies’ rules on working alone and help your employees to understand the risks they may face.
Ultimately, your policy should aim to provide lone workers with practical advice and instruction on how to safely work alone.
How to create a simple lone working policy
Your lone working policy will be developed as an extension to your lone working risk assessment. The policy document will include your risk assessment and the procedures you have put in place to reduce or eliminate the identified risks.
What to include in your lone working policy?
You should include the following in your lone working policy;
Lone working policy statement
A lone working policy statement is made up of one or two paragraphs outlining the organisations dedication to meeting their legal requirements.
A definition of lone working
You must be clear on when you consider your employees to be lone working, so they know when the policy applies to them. For example, do you consider those working late in the office alone to be lone working or does your policy only refer to those leaving the office to carry out home visits?
Your lone worker risk assessment
Set out a list of the risks identified as part of your risk assessment and break them down by job role, location and lone worker type. If you have a number of lone workers carrying out different roles, you should consider writing several policies. This will help your employees to better understand the risks relevant to them and avoid having to read through irrelevant information.
The procedures and measures you have put in place
If it important for your employees to know what actions you have taken to reduce risk and what is expected of them. While you should provide briefs and training on the procedures your lone workers need to follow, the policy is a good place for them to refer to.
The purpose of the lone working safety policy
This section provides an opportunity to let your employees know you care about their safety. The focus here should be on the benefits to their wellbeing rather than your own benefits or legal requirements. Placing emphasis on safety and wellbeing will help to encourage compliance.
The responsibilities of each employee including management and the lone workers
In order for procedures and systems to work, each employee involved must be aware of their responsibilities. Be clear on which responsibilities lie on the lone worker and which lie on their supervisor.
How to report on hazards or incidents
Outline how and when your employees are expected to report a hazard or incident. Is it the lone worker’s responsibility or that of a health and safety representative? Do they need to fill out a form or do you have an online portal for reporting?
Additional help and support
You should consider including additional information on who employees can contact if they have any concerns or require additional support. This may include any health and safety representatives within the organisation, as well as external agencies, charities or support groups.
How to create a lone working policy statement
Your lone working policy will be influenced by the risks identified and the procedures put in place to reduce or eliminate the risks. We have created an example of a lone working policy below. Please note that this is a brief example and you should expect to identify a more extensive list of potential risks.
Tips for creating your lone working policy
Creating your lone working policy is an important task and we understand that sometimes it can seem daunting. Getting your lone workers on board is perhaps the greatest challenge which is why we have put together these tips for creating your lone working policy.
Keep it simple
To ensure your lone workers understand and follow your policy, you should keep it as concise and simple as possible. Use language they would understand and outline what is expected of them as clearly as possible.
Clarity is important for the layout of the document as well as the language used.
It is important that your policy is regularly updated whenever you risk assessment is reassessed or whenever you introduce new lone working policies such as a new training course or implement a lone worker device.
Involve your lone workers
In order to get your lone workers on board with your new policy, you should consider involving them in all aspects of the process. Ask them to help you identify risks and suggest ways they would feel safer.
Once your lone working policy has been developed, consider holding a workshop or health and safety day where you can openly discuss why you have developed the policy and what has been put in place. Be sure to focus on a clear safety message and the benefits to your lone workers.
While you want to encourage adoption by focusing on employee safety and wellbeing, you also need your employees to understand that the policies and procedures you have implemented are a requirement and non-optional.
Are there different lone working procedures for different types of employee?
All employers are bound by the lone worker law in their country. However, some organisations do offer specific guidance for developing lone working procedures for different types of employee and in different industries.
Lone working policy NHS
Protection of NHS staff is a topic that we often hear discussed in the media. Front line nursing staff and doctors can be targets for verbal abuse and aggression on a daily basis as they deal with the public. According to NHS Protect figures there were 70,555 reported assaults on NHS staff in 2015/16.
The Royal College of Nursing has produced a guide to lone working in health and social care, which includes information on producing a lone worker policy. The guide helps staff to identify risks and put appropriate measures in place to protect NHS staff.
Housing Association Lone Worker Policy
Lone working in housing associations is commonplace as staff work within the local community. Unfortunately, for those working alone in the housing and property industry, violence and aggression is not uncommon.
Housing employees face potentially difficult situations on a regular basis as they enter client’s homes alone, work late hours, carry out maintenance and deliver bad news such as evictions.
A recent survey by Inside Housing (UK) revealed a rise in the number of reported assaults against frontline staff in recent years. 65% of respondents had experienced verbal assault during the last year, with some stating that this was a regular or even daily occurrence.
Other experiences included racial abuse, being spat on, having furniture thrown at them and receiving death threats as well as being physically attacked or held hostage.
The number of reported assaults is so high that in the UK, an assault occurs every 35 working minutes.
However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of lone working housing employees. A risk assessment will outline what you need to include in your lone working policy, but common policies and procedures in the housing industry include conflict resolution training, lone worker app and devices and training on dynamic risk assessments.
Lone working policy for social workers
Social workers engage with the most vulnerable members of society. Managers must implement procedures and systems to ensure that the whereabouts of their team members are known at all times.
Procedures to monitor lone working social workers may include:
- Supervisors periodically visiting and observing people working alone
- Regular contact between lone worker and supervisor by phone or radio
- Safety devices that alert an organisation if a staff member presses a panic alarm or hasn’t checked in safely
- Regular checks of reception areas and interview rooms
- Checks that the lone worker has returned to base or home on completion of a task
There are particular tasks where social workers may be more vulnerable to risk. These include:
- Out of hours working
- Assessments of compulsory hospital admissions under the Mental Health Act
- Investigations of child abuse
- Removal of children from their care providers under an emergency protection order
- New contacts with members of the public where there is no previous background information
- Undertaking home visits
- Providing services to people who have a known record of violent or aggressive behaviour
- Escorting people who are potentially violent, or who may attempt to abscond
Lone working procedures & checklists
To help you understand what a working alone safety procedure is, we outline some examples below as well as providing a checklist of questions you can ask yourself to get started.
Lone working procedures
A lone worker procedure refers to a series of steps that need to be followed in order to work alone safely. You may find it useful to write a number of procedures suitable for different groups of employees so that they are able to digest the correct information easily.
Some examples of procedures which should be developed for lone working include;
- How the lone worker should check-in with their supervisor and how often
- How and when to use any lone worker devices
- What to do in an emergency including evacuation procedures and who to contact
- What to do when a client shows signs of aggression
- What to do when unauthorised visitors attempt to enter a building where the employee is working alone
This is not an exhaustive list and there are many more scenarios that will require a lone worker procedure. However, implementing as many procedures as is necessary can save lives. This is why it is important that your procedures are made compulsory and you avoid any language that could suggest a choice such as ‘you should’ or ‘you could’.
When first introducing new work alone procedures, it is important to provide briefing and training for your lone workers so that they know exactly what is expected of them. A written step-by-step guide should be distributed for them to refer to and it may be helpful to produce a safety checklist for your lone workers to follow until procedures become routine.
Lone working risk assessment checklist
When managing the safety of your lone workers, there are a number of factors you will need to take into consideration. These factors will vary considerably depending on your organisation, location and lone worker job functions. However, there are some basics that always need to be covered.
You can follow our checklist to ensure you are covering some of the basics.