Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have legal duties to assess all risks to health and safety, including the risk of lone working. All employees should be provided with a safe and secure working environment. In the UK, it is estimated that up to 8 million people are lone workers. That is more than 20 per cent of the 31.2m working population in the UK.
While it will often be safe to work alone, there are some things for employees to consider before allowing staff and remote workers to do so. Here are 5 ways employers can safeguard mobile lone workers:
1. Develop a culture of safe lone-working
Establishing a healthy and safe working environment for lone workers such as security staff or cleaning staff can be different to organising the health and safety of employees located at the employer’s place of business. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe place of work to protect employees and remote workers should not be put at more risk than people working at their premises. Health and safety should be at the heart of the business and it is the responsibility of the directors to define the risk around roles and to consider the reality of the risk attached to each of their worker’s job within the business whether at base or off-site.
Through strong leadership and communication, directors and staff can collaborate to nurture a safety culture. Positive attitudes and employee engagement are fundamental to the success of a corporate workplace safety policy. A strong safety culture reflects the behaviours, beliefs and values that the employees share and have been instilled by the management team.
Through behavioural change, training and strong communication channels, employees become engaged to take ownership of safety at all levels accept personal responsibility for their own safety as well as taking responsibility for others. Safety checks should be carried out as part of the norm rather than as an exception. Examples of checks to be carried out include:
• are safety signs/warnings present where appropriate?
• are emergency telephone numbers posted where they can be found readily?
• is there an adequately stocked first aid kit available?
• are emergency evacuation traffic routes identified?
• are fire exits clearly marked and free from obstruction?
• do entry and exit procedures provide workers with personal security at night?
The aim of workplace safety culture and carrying out regular safety checks is to reduce the risk of accident and injury and to ensure that action is taken should something happen. Supervisors and managers should develop a positive attitude to safety and disclosure of incidents to ensure that the staff wellbeing remains of paramount importance when lone working.
2. Develop a lone-working policy
Organisations managing lone workers have a duty to protect their staff and should have training measures and a lone-working policy in place. An effective lone worker policy will provide guidance and procedures and will contribute to the safety of lone workers and address the risk to employee safety. Employers of lone workers have a duty of care to employees and to comply with Health and Safety regulations in much the same way as employees that work on site. Although it is not a legal requirement to have a policy in place, it is good working practice to help promote a strong health and safety culture in the workplace.
3. Health & Safety training
Ample training and support should be offered for all employees who have to work on their own. Training measures should be put in place to reduce personal safety risks and to improve the confidence of staff when dealing with conflict and customer aggression. Lone workers should feel safe and confident in working alone and managing conflict. They should be provided with suitable and regular training to accommodate their needs and to ensure that the employer meets their Duty of Care to safeguard lone workers.
4. Conduct a risk assessment
Employers should establish areas of risk such as whether the workplace poses a danger to the member of staff, is there a risk of violence, is the worker medically suitable to work alone, is there heavy lifting involved. All of these aspects bring an element of risk to the employee and they should be suitably trained in order to qualify them to work alone.
Equally as important as the employee’s suitability for the role is for the supervisors of these individuals to know where they are and to be able to maintain contact with them whilst they are on shift.
5. Choose a staff monitoring solution
Employers should have measures in place to ensure that effective communications are put in place. Where possible, this could include supervisor visits to observe staff that are working alone, agreed contact or calls between the lone worker and the supervisor. In situations where the employer is managing large teams of remote or lone workers, visits and calls may not be an efficient way to monitor the whereabouts of individuals. A robust system needs to be implemented to ensure that the lone worker has clocked in and out of their designated location at the expected time.
Ezitracker is a time & attendance system that can assist employers in meeting their duty of care obligations to manage the health, safety and security of lone workers. The system safeguards lone workers by raising an alert to the supervisor if they fail to log out from the system, managing the risk and demonstrating a real commitment to their welfare.
With electronic staff monitoring such as Ezitracker, remote workers can log in and out of client sites using a variety of methods: landline, text, mobile app and biometric units. If a staff member fails to log in, an alert is raised so steps can be taken to get replacement staff on-site quickly. If they fail to log out an alert is raised so supervisors can check their employee is safe or take appropriate action.
In today’s Digital World there are a range of affordable, cloud based solutions such as Ezitracker which enable employers to safeguard and account for their remote workforce.