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Lone Working

Published May 9, 2018 (last updated on April 26, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

Lone workers are people who work by themselves in the workplace or local community with limited or no way to talk to other people. Working alone is legal in most cases and a necessity in some industries, particularly for employees who travel to remote or isolated areas. Working alone can be dangerous and employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to reduce the associated risks.

Types Of Lone Workers

Each industry and organisation have their own definition of lone workers. Some people may work alone for a few hours or several days a week. Some workers may be in close proximity to other workers (but still cannot access them easily) or possibly miles away from a central office.

Despite the range of circumstances that fall under working alone, people are generally considered to be lone workers if they:

  • travel alone as part of their job

  • travel long distances

  • carry out field work in remote or isolated locations

  • work unsupervised for any period of time

  • work late at night or do shift work

  • work with the general public, but away from their home base and co-workers

  • work at home

  • work on days with a reduced roster (eg public holidays)

Risks Of Lone Working

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, employers are legally obliged to identify and eliminate any risk to employee wellbeing so far as is ‘reasonable practical.’ Failure to comply to the Act can result in harsh penalties.

Lone workers face different kinds of risks compared to those who work in the company of others. From personal injury and illness to violent confrontations, these risks are also amplified in situations where workers are left to their own devices. Employers who manage lone workers must pay particular attention to these different risks, and manage them accordingly. Common risks of working alone include:

  • no access to emergency assistance

  • being attacked by thieves while opening or closing the shop

  • a violent encounter with a customer or member of the general public

  • falling asleep at the wheel during travel

  • misuse of equipment due to lack of supervision

  • being unfamiliar with a new worksite or remote location

  • feelings of loneliness and isolation

  • unable to attend meetings that involve important news, legislation updates, and changes to company procedures

  • may not have access to the latest tools or technology

How To Reduce The Dangers Of Working Alone

By identifying the specific risks of working alone, employers can use their tools and resources to control risks related to the job. Employers should consult workers along with health and safety representatives or a workplace specialist to find out the risks and create a strategy to minimise those risks.

The following safety measures are commonly used to reduce the risks of working alone:

  • creating a buddy system to reduce or eliminate the need to work alone

  • maintaining regular contact with lone workers via phone, text, email or live video conferencing

  • installing CCTV and security devices to monitor lone workers

  • installing security alarms to reduce emergency response times

  • keeping lone workers informed on the latest legislation, events and workplace procedures

  • giving lone workers access to the latest tools and technology

  • encouraging lone workers to attain a first aid certificate

  • for remote locations, informing workers on potential hazards in the area and where they can access help

What To Include In A Lone Working Policy

The purpose of a lone working policy is to address and manage the risks of working alone. Each organisation has their own risks and the policy should reflect the individual needs of lone workers.

A lone working policy should include:

  • the types of risks lone workers will face

  • what employers and workers must do to control the risks

  • what defines a lone worker and a remote or isolated area

  • how to address issues related to lone working

For advice on how to manage working alone in the workplace, or for information on how to assess your workplace for risk, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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