The implication of the term ‘lone worker’ is one laced with ideas of danger and risk and, with many industries currently being faced with new challenges, it’s important to prioritise risk assessment in your health and safety plans. With proper preparation, workplace accidents will be less likely to occur even in the most high-risk roles.
Conducting a lone worker risk assessment isn’t just a good idea, but is required by law in the UK. Companies can be saddled with huge fines should they not meet the HSE risk assessment specifications.
What is the purpose of a risk assessment?
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires a minimum assessment of risk from businesses, which includes identifying potential hazards, determining the level of danger they pose, and taking action to control or eliminate them.
This is done primarily to make sure that all workers - whether they operate alone or within large teams - can be kept from harm as much as possible, even in more traditionally dangerous roles. In order to complete a risk assessment, employers must first work out who could be harmed and why, before putting measures in place to avoid these outcomes. This can include things like redesigning the job or workplace or replacing old or broken machinery and PPE.
Some of the most common risks associated with lone workers are:
- Environmental hazards
- Lack of Training
- Risk of assault or robbery
- Potential for loss of communication
- Road accidents
- Working at height
- Sudden illness
Environmental hazards can refer to a number of things, but the simplest interpretation is whether your workspace is as clean, tidy and free of things to trip over as possible. Are there unsecured objects that could fall and hurt your workers? Is all equipment and product where it is supposed to be stored? It can be a good idea to look at existing records to see what has caused accidents or ‘near-misses’ in the past and could be eliminated after performing a proper risk assessment process.
Lack of Training
No matter how careful you are about mitigating risk on a management level, it means very little if your workers do not know how to conduct themselves in the safest way possible while performing their roles. This is why proper training is so vital to keeping any health and safety policy ticking along effectively. If employees need to use heavy machinery then they must be taught how to do so, for example, and frequent refresher courses are a pivotal part of managing the long-term health and safety of your teams.
Assault or robbery
Environmental hazards are one thing, but the behaviour of people is much harder to predict and subsequently insure again. Hazards posed by other human beings can include anything from a worker being attacked while on their shift to being verbally abused or burgled. You may think this only applies to workers in very exposed roles such as security guards, but really it covers a wide range of jobs like real estate agents, door-to-door salespeople, shop workers and more.
The rise in the number of people working from home also increases the risk of things such as burglary, as a lot of things that might not be a security issue at the office become more pronounced when you’re dealing with a remote workforce.
Should there be an accident then it is imperative that workers can get in touch with their supervisors or, in some circumstances, the emergency services in as easy and streamlined a way as possible. With a personal safety alarm from Vatix, for example, workers can simply hit a dedicated SOS button and immediately be put through to a nominated contact or one of our own highly-trained operators.
And, because the devices all come with a multi-network SIM card as standard, they will simply switch to the strongest signal, thus eliminating the danger of an injured or distressed worker not being able to get through to someone.
Drivers make up one of the largest categories of lone workers, confronting unique challenges as they go about their day to day duties. One of these is unexpected breakdowns, which can leave the worker stranded somewhere that may or may not have good mobile connectivity. There’s also the risk of road accidents which can be more deadly, so lone workers who are required to travel long distances should always be given tools such as personal safety devices so that they can quickly and easily escalate a dangerous event.
Working at height
Protecting employees working at height is one of the more obvious duties of a health and safety manager, as the potential risks of a job conducted on high surfaces like roofs or scaffolding can be determined quite easily. To read more about working at height regulations, click here.
Even if a possible safety issue isn’t something directly caused by the job your lone worker is doing, it is still important to make sure things like sudden illness or mental health problems caused by stress are included in your lone worker risk assessment. Is the role a particularly high-pressure one? Is help or guidance available for those experiencing a mental health issue? If a worker has a heart attack or another physical illness, are there measures in place to make sure that the emergency services are alerted? These are all things that need to be considered.
To find out more about Vatix services and how we can help with your lone worker risk assessment, click here or call us on 020 3991 5555.