What are lone worker risk assessments?
Risk assessments for lone working are a basic legal requirement and should be carried out for all employees. When carrying out a risk assessment for lone working staff, you must consider hazards related to the work being carried out, the people they come into contact with and the different environments they travel through and work in.
Are risk assessments a legal requirement?
Yes, if you are an employer or self-employed. It is a legal requirement for every employer and self-employed person to make an assessment of the health and safety risks arising out of their work. The purpose of the assessment is to identify what needs to be done to control health and safety risks.
Writing a lone worker risk assessment
The HSE provide a 5-step risk assessment guide to help businesses understand what is required as part of a risk assessment.
HSE 5 step risk assessment
1. Identify the hazards
For fixed or regular work environments, including vehicles used for work, hazards can be identified through inspections and observations. However, many lone workers travel to a number of irregular sites and unfixed basis. Visiting each one may be unrealistic but there are a number of other ways to identify risk;
- Talk to your lone workers and ask them for feedback on any risks they have identified
- Look at past incidents and near misses and identify the causes
- Look at common hazards identified by bodies such as HSE and consider whether they could be present in your workplaces
2. Decide who might be harmed and how
Next you must consider which of your employees might be harmed by the identified hazards. Perhaps the hazard is associated with a particular work site which is only visited by one employee or perhaps the hazard applies to the work being carried out across a group of lone workers.
You should also take into consideration the experience and training levels of your lone workers. It could be the case that several of your employees would be better equip at dealing with the hazard and therefore the risk will be lower. E.g. they may have training and experience on operating a piece of equipment.
As well as your lone workers, the business holds a legal responsibility to protect the wellbeing of anyone who may be effected by the businesses work activities. This includes members of the public and other workers operating nearby.
Therefore, you must consider whether anyone else could be harmed by the activities of your lone workers. For example, if they are working at height and drop an object, could someone be injured below?
3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
Once hazards have been identified, you then need to decide how likely it is that harm will occur, and what the level of harm will be to your lone worker.
The actions you take to reduce or eliminate risk will need to take into consideration the following;
- The likelihood of the risk occurring
- The degree of harm that might result from the hazard
- The availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk
- The cost associated with available ways of eliminating the hazard and whether this is proportionate to the risk
Once you have decided whether you are going to take action, ask yourself whether the hazard can be eliminated entirely or whether you can control the risk so that harm is unlikely.
Some practical steps you could take include:
- Trying a less risky way of working e.g. using scaffolding instead of ladders for long periods of working at height
- Preventing access to the hazards or ceasing work on a hazardous site
- Reorganising work patterns to reduce exposure to the hazard e.g. limiting lone working to social hours
- Issuing protective equipment or lone worker devices
- Providing lone worker training and employee consultations
- Avoid sending lone workers out to customers who you have identified as a possible risk
If your risk assessment has identified a number of hazards, place them in order of importance and address the most serious risks first. For risks likely to cause accidents or ill health, you should establish whether short term controls need to be put in place immediately while you take steps to control the risk long term.
Remember, the greater the risk the more robust and reliable the control measures will need to be.
4. Record your significant findings
If you have more than 5 employees, you are required by law to record your significant findings
including the hazards identified, how your lone workers might be harmed and what you have put in place to control the risk.
Your records should be simple, easy to understand, and focus on the control systems you have put in place. Keeping a record will allow you to review past risk assessments and provides you with base evidence should an accident or incident occur.
Your written risk assessment should show that;
- A thorough check was carried out
- You considered who might be affected by the hazards
- You took all reasonable steps to control the hazards
- The remaining risk is low
- You involved your employees or health and safety representatives in the process
5. Review your risk assessment and update if necessary
Workplaces are constantly changing and new hazards are likely to arise as you expand, hire new employees or implement new equipment and ways of working. You may also find that the procedures you have put in place haven’t been effective, and more still needs to be done to control risk.
Therefore, it is important to regularly review the lone worker risk assessments and safety procedures you have in place.
As part of your risk assessment review you should consider;
- Whether there have been any significant changes in the workplace
- Whether your policies and procedures have been effective
- Whether your lone workers have identified any other issues
- Whether any accidents or incidents have occurred
- If you identify any issues, it is important to follow steps 1-4 again and keep your risk assessment up to date.
Find out what the law has to say about risk assessments and working alone.