Preparation is key in all areas of life. In business, proper preparation can be the difference between success and failure. While many business leaders focus on market assessment to prepare business strategies, one often overlooked aspect of preparation in business is a lone working risk assessment.
Proper planning for health and safety in the work environment protects the most important asset in your company: your employees. There are also a vast array of other benefits in achieving an excellent track record in health and safety, from employees feeling valued to increased productivity, that feeds into each other to create a better business overall.
Assessing the risks for lone workers can be more complex than a risk assessment of the general working environment. The complexities are due to the unique hazards and greater risks faced by a lone worker who works by themselves without close or direct supervision.
A lone working risk assessment template, like the one you can find here, is an easy way for you to determine where your business needs to improve, create new policies, or fine-tune existing practices relating to health and safety.
To help you make the most out of the template, it is critical you understand each component of the process. Hence, this article will walk you through everything you need to know about the lone working risk assessment, from guidelines of each step through to the legalities that you are bound to as an employer.
What is a lone working risk assessment?
You know that you need to perform a risk assessment for your lone workers, but how do you go about starting? Well, the first thing you need to know is what a lone worker risk assessment is and what it aims to achieve in the long-run.
Let’s begin by understanding what a general health and safety risk assessment is. Put simply, a risk assessment is a review of workplace conditions and the dangers that could be present. These dangers could be posing a risk to your workers, managers, customers, or a combination of these factors.
The main objective of a general risk assessment is to determine how to decrease occupational injuries and ill health for your company. The solutions involved after a risk assessment can range from health and safety training to PPE, a regular schedule of equipment maintenance, and so on.
When focusing on lone workers, the objective also includes taking measures to mitigate the increased risks lone workers face, particularly when others are not around to communicate with or assist in the face of danger. Before starting a lone worker risk assessment, you need to first be aware of the unique dangers that increase the health and safety risks of lone workers.
The risks lone workers face
The risks that lone workers face when they’re isolated and/or working alone in the field are diverse. Here, we will list some of the most common hazards.
Dangers from the Environment
There are many types of environmental hazards that affect lone workers. Here is a quick checklist to help you identify the environmental hazards lone workers can face.
- Safety hazards: These risks will be specific to the task at hand. Consider all elements of the job that could lead to an accident. This can include factors such as working at height and heavy machinery.
- Biological and chemical hazards: Lone workers can be exposed to biological and chemical hazards specific to the job, capable of causing injury or illness to the lone worker, such as when working in a laboratory or with waste materials. Exposure can also occur in the public space, such as during times of a pandemic.
- Physical hazards: Lone workers who work outside of a traditional office environment will have a higher chance of being exposed to physical hazards such as harsh weather, icy roads, low visibility, and so on.
- Natural hazards: Natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and avalanches can injure or trap lone workers in confined spaces.
- Social hazards: Lone workers face high-risk exposure to social hazards involving violence such as assault or robbery. This risk is higher in night-shift jobs or jobs in remote locations.
- Personal health hazards: Shift work that can cause sleep deprivation is one potential example of a personal health hazard that can risk the wellbeing of your employees.
- Ergonomic hazards: The repetitive nature of many lone worker jobs can cause damage to the human musculoskeletal system and impact health in the long run.
Dangers from Lack of Training
Other than environmental hazards, workers can become a risk to themselves if they lack the adequate training to prevent accidents. Training includes both the training that makes them skilled at their job to avoid potentially harmful mistakes, as well as health and safety training specific to their job.
Dangers from Loss or Lack of Communication
Loss of communication, or lack of communication, for lone workers is a growing problem. Although we have smartphones and high-speed internet, factors such as remote locations, natural disasters, and accidents can cut off communication vital to assess the current safety of lone workers.
Dangers from Sudden Illness
Sudden illness such as heart attacks or strokes can affect lone workers, and if they are alone without the presence of others such as customers, this could mean a delay in receiving the life-saving emergency medical care they need.
The 5 steps of lone working risk assessment
Attempting to delve into the process of a lone working risk assessment for the first time without a guide or template can lead to mistakes, and it could cost you—the average fine for violations of HSE regulations is estimated to be about £120,000. To help you become familiar with what to expect, we will first give you an overview of the entire process.
Performing a lone working risk assessment first consists of five steps.
- Identify (the hazards)
- Assess (the risks)
- Control (the risks)
- Record (your findings)
- Review (the controls)
In the previous section, we gave a brief checklist of the most common hazards lone workers face. This checklist can help you with the first step, which is to identify the most common hazards relevant to the type of business you do.
Not all of these hazards may apply to your lone workers. If they work in an office environment, for example, you probably don’t need to worry about looking at the risks of working at height. However, if you regularly have people working alone in a warehouse environment, then you’ll need to make sure there is no danger of trips, slips and falls and possibly even conduct a separate fire risk assessment.
While you’re at the stage of identifying the hazards, it will be useful to observe and speak with people from every level of your organisation to help you determine where hazards might lie, especially in areas where they may ordinarily be missed.
Once you have identified the hazards, the next step is to assess the risks. Think about what type of injury or illness could occur as a consequence of these hazards and then list the controls that can mitigate these risks.
Then, it is important to record the hazards and risks you’ve identified and assessed. Keeping records of your risk assessments is a legal requirement if you employ five or more people.
Finally, the last step of the process is to review the controls you have in place, as well as the controls you will need to include, to mitigate the risks. These controls are not just limited to the prevention of accidents, but also includes the training, systems, and processes for the team to adhere to in the case of a lone worker being involved in an accident or dangerous situation.
How to do a lone working risk assessment the right way
The best way to do a lone working risk assessment is by following a system that gives you visibility of all five steps at a glance, from the hazards through to the controls in place.
Working with this template can help you in three ways:
- It ensures you do not miss out on any critical steps for each hazard identified.
- It makes it easier to spot weak areas that need extra solutions.
- It gives your team members quick visibility on what they are responsible for to ensure the safety of lone workers in the organisation.
To help you get started, we have a free lone worker risk assessment template that you can download.
This template is pre-filled with examples of common types of hazards lone workers typically face and popular mitigation methods for them. However, this is not an exhaustive list. You will need to identify and add the specific hazards your lone workers face and mitigation methods specific to your company.
In the next section, you’ll see an example of how to fill out this template.
Lone Worker Risk Assessment Example
Here are a few important tips to help you fill out the lone worker risk assessment template with due diligence.
- Speak to your workers to review the existing measures in place to control the risk of each hazard.
- Do they feel the current measures are adequate?
- Do they have any suggestions to improve the controls? These suggestions can range from upgrading PPE to updating procedures.
This review can be done individually, in a group, or as an anonymous survey.
- Research what other companies within your industry do to mitigate the risks for their lone workers. If possible, connect with others within your industry to determine the best practices for your industry.
- Stay updated with the latest technologies for lone workers. Evaluate which of these technologies can be beneficial as a control measure for the hazards you identify.
The legal implications you need to know about lone worker risk assessment
Conducting a risk assessment is not just the right thing to do, but is a legal requirement if you employ five or more people in the UK under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. For companies with fewer than five employees, it is still highly recommended that you record these findings.
While all employers have a duty of care to assure the safety and wellbeing of their workforce, they are also obliged to ensure that lone workers are provided with the same standards of safety as their office-based colleagues.
Other legislations that must be complied with include the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, and the Health & Safety Offences Act 2008.
Failure to comply with health and safety legislation can have serious consequences for companies, leading to large fines, damage to the businesses’ reputation and even imprisonment.
Under this legislation, employers have a legal obligation and duty to:
- Conduct a lone worker risk assessment
Risk assessments are a basic legal requirement and in this case, must be tailored to the specificities of lone working. When producing their risk assessment, employers need to take into consideration the hazards related to the tasks in question, the environments in which they are carried out and the members of the public that the lone worker may come into contact with.
- Produce a written health and safety policy
Once your risk assessment has been carried out, it will be necessary to follow up with a safety policy that specifically applies to your lone workers. This should act as a guide to your company’s policy when it comes to lone workers, as well as providing practical advice on safety and procedures to follow.
- Provide training specific to lone workers
Lack of training is often cited as a cause or aggravating factor for serious injuries in the workplace. Training is particularly important for lone workers, as working in isolation means that there are no colleagues around to intervene in the case of an incident or point out potential mistakes or unwise behaviour.
- Use lone worker devices to provide an appropriate level of supervision
We cannot stress this enough: lone working must not mean a complete lack of supervision. The greater the risk involved, the more closely you will need to monitor your remote or lone workers.
While this used to mean regularly checking in by phone, dedicated lone worker safety devices are now available that enable workers to self-monitor their activity and trigger an alarm in case of danger, while managers remain aware of their whereabouts and keep track of their activity. Be sure to check that your chosen solution is BS8484 compliant.
Protect your lone workers by taking the first step
In summary, the best way to protect your lone workers from immediate and long-term harm is by applying a systematic way to assess and mitigate the risks your lone workers face.
To simplify the process for you, we have created a lone worker risk assessment template that you download for free here.
This template allows you to systematically complete all five steps of risk assessment covered in this article: identify the hazards, assess the risks, control the risks, record your findings, and finally review the controls. It also comes pre-filled with the most common hazards and industry best practices to control the risks, giving you a solid headstart and saving you a lot of precious time.
Remember to use the hazards guidelines covered in this article, plus the research tips mentioned, to add hazards specific to the lone workers of your organisation and remove the ones that are not relevant.
Once you have completed the template, we encourage you to print it out for each department or person responsible to be able to keep the records and steps viewable in one glance. This makes it easy for your team to remember and implement the risk-reducing measures that resulted from this entire process.
Do not delay taking action with completing and implementing a lone worker risk assessment in your organisation. Not only is it vital to protect your lone workers from a legal obligation, but it can also support the long-term success of your business.
The latest research shows that 6-8 million people are lone workers in the UK, which comprises about 20% of the British workforce. That is a significant portion of the workforce which can impact the productivity and success of your business.
For further information on how you can better protect against risks identified from your lone worker risk assessment, you can explore how our lone worker safety devices, alarms, and monitoring systems can provide you and your employees with peace of mind.