Shockingly, many UK companies are not aware that they have lone workers. Of those who are aware, many don’t have clarity on the risks their lone workers face and their safety needs.
Without a clear picture of the lone working situation in their company, it’s improbable for employers to implement safety solutions that keep their lone workers safe.
This puts their lone workers in danger and places the company at risk of massive liabilities or fines for non-conformance.
This article will dive into the five aspects of lone working that employers must be aware of to ensure employees and the company are protected.
Before 1986, the term “lone working” did not even exist. Without even a term to represent the workers who face higher risks when working alone, there was consequently little awareness amongst employers of the need to protect them and how.
The turning point came when Suzy Lamplough, a London realtor, disappeared during working hours on 28 July 1986. Suzy, like many realtors, was called for a viewing appointment at a property and went alone.
In the middle of a bustling city during broad daylight, Suzy went missing and has never been found. The case remains unsolved to this day.
This tragic event triggered the coining of the term “lone worker”. Now that there was a common term to represent those who work alone, the health and safety industry cultivated better awareness, practices, and solutions to protect this vulnerable workforce.
Fast forward to 2021, it is estimated that around 22% of the UK working population are lone workers. This equates to approximately 8 million people.
Despite the significant number, we have come across many companies who don’t have a complete picture of lone workers in their organisation.
As professionals in the industry, it has not been uncommon for us to speak to a manager or business owner who confess they do not know the number of lone workers in their organisation. Some cannot even say with certainty whether they do or do not have lone workers.
This is worrying because, as we can learn from the case of Suzy Lamplough, lone working awareness is the protection prerequisite.
The industry as a whole is responsible for being aware of the existence of lone workers and the solutions needed to protect them. However, this high-level awareness is not enough. Employers must also be aware of and have clarity on the lone working situation in their organisations and what they need to stay safe.In essence, every employer and manager within an organisation needs to have an awareness of five key areas of lone working:
What are employers’ legal obligations for lone worker protection in the UK? The following four legislations outline what these obligations are.
The key reason why employers need to be aware of the number of lone workers in their company is to ensure they have adequate lone working solutions for them.
In addition, employers should also have clarity on how often their employees are working alone and where. Depending on the task at hand, different employees will have different lone working schedules.
Some employees may regularly work alone, averaging more than 20 hours a week as a lone worker. Some may only work alone sometimes, between 5-20 hours a week. While those who rarely work alone may only clock in 1-5 hours a week as a lone worker. Or even less such as once a month.
It’s important to have clarity on how often your employees are working alone because this will impact your decision-making when choosing the right solutions.
The best way to get a complete picture is by conducting a lone working survey on your employees. Since lone working conditions can also change, it’s important to conduct this survey regularly, at least once every six months, to make sure you’re aware of any new lone working conditions.
A comprehensive lone working survey should also give you an overview of the tasks your lone workers perform and in what environment they perform it in.
This information can give you a general indication of the types of hazards and risks they face. However, it is not sufficient to fully understand all the unique risks and hazards lone workers face in your organisation.
The next step is to a deeper dive by regularly conducting a lone working risk assessment. Performing a lone working risk assessment first consists of five steps.
To guide you on how to adequately conduct each step, download our free lone working risk assessment template.
By this stage, you would have a clear picture of how many people in your organisation work alone, how often they work alone, and the specific risks and hazards they face when they work alone.
This gives you the information you need to create a risk management strategy to keep your lone workers as safe as possible within practical and reasonable means.
A risk management strategy is essentially a cost-benefit analysis to help you set priorities and allocate resources to remove or lower the risks and hazards you’ve identified.
There are four types of risk management strategies:
To get more details on how to determine the best risk management strategy for each risk identified, check out our article on the four risk management strategies for workplace health and safety. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on risk reduction strategies with lone working safety solutions in the next section.
Once you’ve identified which hazards and risks you want to apply a risk reduction strategy, the next step is to select the right solutions and best practices. In order to this, you need to have awareness of the solutions currently available and its pros and cons.
Some best practices can be ideal for other situations but are not ideal for lone working situations. For example, the buddy system has major shortcomings for lone workers.
Lone worker devices or apps have different advantages and investments. Knowing the number of lone workers you have, how frequently they work alone, and the level of risk they face can help you determine the optimum number of units to invest in.
Understanding the hazards they face can also help you to determine which lone working device is best for them. For example, our Safe Pro device is a complete lone worker alarm solution ideal for most lone working situations. While the TWIG One Ex is an ATEX device approved for gas and dust and designed for lone workers in explosive hazardous working environments.
Having a lone working best practice or device is not enough on its own. Any lone working best practice, device, or solution cannot exist in a bubble. It must be part of a bigger system for it to work effectively.
For example, if a lone worker pushes the SOS button on their personal alarm device, what happens next? Who is notified of the alarm alert? What are the escalation procedures? Is someone monitoring lone workers and how often?
It’s equally important to have a system in place that ties everything together so your employees and lone workers can experience safety in the most seamless and productive way possible.
Our Protector platform has been specifically designed to help you achieve this. It is the only employee-led software that integrates lone worker safety solutions, options for flexible in-house monitoring or a third-party alarm receiving center, and digital incident reporting.
By having a solution that integrates the entire safety process on one platform, it becomes much easier to create a first-class safety culture in your organisation and ensure compliance with health and safety laws.
As part of our commitment to raise the awareness of lone working situations in companies, we’ve put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide to boost your awareness on all five areas of lone working.
This guide expands upon the overview of this article and gives you easy-to-follow checklists to ensure you have a complete picture of the lone working situation in your company.
To put this awareness into action, we highly recommend considering platforms specifically designed for lone working health and safety such as Protector. Contact us here to get a demo of Protector and discover how it can help you create a first-class safety culture for all employees and lone workers.