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Health and safety and lone working
Employers have a duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, including those undertaking lone work. They must take into account those who are on the premises when all other staff have gone home, such as cleaners, maintenance workers and those working late.
Employers must also comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (the HSW Act) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR).
Before allowing lone work to be undertaken, the employer must assess whether it is advisable, assessing potential emergencies, e.g. fire, equipment failure, illness and accidents.
The legislation that covers the requirement to carry out a lone working risk assessments is:
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which requires the following general duty of employers to their employees be carried out.
(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.
The employer must provide a safe working environment through a number of management strategies, including ensuring that the workplace is safe and without risk to the health of lone workers. Protection of the workforce from harm during lone work is required.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: Regulation 3 states that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of -
- the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
- the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking
Examples of lone work in the health service provider setting:
Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision, for example:
In fixed establishments
- A person working alone in a small workshop or plant room
- A person staying at work to complete tasks when everyone else has gone home
- People working on their own outside normal hours, e.g. cleaners and security, maintenance or repair staff who are on the premises when all other staff have gone home
As mobile workers working away from their fixed base
Healthcare service providers visiting the homes of services users
Management of lone Work
- Develop policies and procedures for managing lone working arrangements
- Set the limits to what can and cannot be done while working alone
- Assess whether the person is medically fit to work alone
- Provide instruction, information and training on the work being undertaken and ensure that the person understands the risk assessments and procedures to follow
- Appoint one or more individuals to take responsibility for managing the risks associated with lone work
- Involve safety representatives and workers
- Undertake a risk assessment on the risks associated with lone work
- Put controls in place to reduce the risks associated with lone work, such as limiting the duration of lone work
- Ensure that the lone worker has effective means of communication. This may include:
- supervisors periodically visiting and observing people working alone
- pre-agreed intervals of regular contact between the lone worker and supervisor
- using phones, radios or email, bearing in mind the worker’s understanding of English
- manually operated or automatic warning devices which trigger if specific signals are not received periodically from the lone worker, e.g. staff security systems
- Communicate with lone workers and ensure they don’t feel isolated
- Implement a robust system to ensure a lone worker has returned to their base or home once their task is completed
QCS has guidance and policies to support your service in meeting the requirements of health and safety management.
Sally Beck RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, CMIOSH – QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor