Lone working is something we commonly associate with domiciliary care. But there are also many lone workers in residential care settings too. They may be delivery drivers, security guards, cleaners – and many will work night shifts. What’s important to note is that if they work in a residential care home, they are also subject to the same Health and Safety policies and procedures as everyone else who works in the building.
In this article, Neil Hughes-Hutchings, a Health & Safety expert from Napthens Health and Safety, explains what residential care providers need to think about.
When it comes to lone working, the first thing is to define what it is. In simple terms, a lone worker is someone who works on their own, with no direct or close supervision. 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 comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (the HSW Act) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
What’s important to consider is that these workers are at greater risk if something were to go wrong as there wouldn’t be anyone there to help them. So, providers need to firstly conduct a risk assessment.
Essentially, there are five steps of risk assessment. The first step is to identify the potential hazards, that is something that has the potential to cause harm such as fire, equipment failure, illness and accidents. Secondly, look at who could be harmed and how.
Thirdly, as they work alone, the provider needs to put suitable and sufficient control measures in place. This might include training on what to do in an emergency, or when things go wrong, and who to contact and how. The next step is to record the findings of the risk assessment, and finally, review it at least annually or if something in the workplace changes or there is reason to believe it is no longer valid.
One of the risks to consider within the residential care sector would be the risk of violence or injury. The Health and Safety Executive defines violence as any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. They should be trained in personal safety or the prevention of violence. The training should help workers recognise situations where they may be at risk and provide them with techniques for resolving conflict.
Residential providers should also consider the stress, wellbeing, or mental health effects that isolated working may present. They should communicate with lone workers regularly, at pre-agreed intervals. Procedures to ensure direct contact between the lone worker and their line manager or supervisor should be put in place too.
Providers need to ensure that the lone worker has an effective way to communicate if in trouble. Technological solutions can help with the communication process. They can be as simple as 2-way radios or mobile phones or more complex bespoke lone worker alarm systems. There should always be a method of communication with lone workers in place – even if the staff member is working at night. And finally, residential providers should know where their lone workers are at all times and have a robust system in place that allows them to know when a lone worker has finished their task or shift.
QCS has guidance and policies to support the requirements of health and safety management. To start a free trial with QCS, please visit http://www.qcs.co.uk/chm-mar-22
You can listen to our podcast on ‘Lone Working’ here