Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision.
Legal duties and responsibilities around lone working
There is no legal requirement indicating that lone working must not happen.
However, a great deal depends upon the Risk Assessment which should be undertaken as part of broad duties under The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999).
These regulations require identifying the hazards found at work, assessing the risks arising from these hazards, and then putting measures in place to control the risks.
Assessing and controlling the risks of lone working
A Risk Assessment should indicate any significant risk, and detail how the risks should be adequately controlled for lone working to continue.
Risk assessment often identifies the correct level of supervision or backup required. Some risk assessments, such as those for working in confined spaces, state that communication and rescue arrangements need to be in place where at least one other person needs to be present.
Control measures may include training, instruction, communications, supervision and personal protective equipment.
If a Risk Assessment shows it is unsafe to work alone, then arrangements should be in place for providing help or backup.
If the worker is at another employer’s workplace, the occupier should inform the lone worker’s employer of the risks and of control measures needed.
For organisations with five or more employees, the Risk Assessment of significant findings must be recorded.
Safe arrangements for lone workers
Safe working arrangements for lone workers are no different to organising the safety of other employees:
Lone workers in many situations also face greater risks from violence and aggression.
Medical suitability of lone workers
Check that lone workers have no medical condition that would make them unsuitable for working alone, seeking medical advice if necessary.
Training for lone workers
Training is particularly important where there is limited supervision:
Supervision of lone workers
The extent of supervision depends on the risk and the ability of the lone worker to identify and handle health and safety issues.
Employees new to a job may need to be accompanied until competencies are achieved. Supervisors may periodically visit to observe the work being done.
Emergencies and lone working