If you have to work alone as part of your job, your employer has a duty of care to safeguard you. The law requires all employers to make sure their employees are ‘reasonably safe’ whilst at work. To do so, employers must put measures in place to reduce or remove risk. This includes clear guidance on ways you can stay safe, tailored specifically to the type of work you do.
According to the Office of National statistics, around 6 million employees work alone every day. This way of working benefits both employers and employees by providing flexibility, reducing costs, increasing productivity and give employers more flexibility. However, working alone can make employees more vulnerable to attack or accident.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone workers as ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’. This could be for example, a security guard working in an office on a night shift, Or social and health workers who visit people in their homes, delivery drivers, tradespeople, homeworkers or shop-workers. Even office workers can find themselves occasionally alone in the office.
Whilst employers have the greatest responsibility with regard to safeguarding lone working, you also have an important role to play. This should be outlined in any lone working policy.
Employers are responsible for:
- Carrying out risk assessments
- Implementing a lone working policy
- Ensuring policies are regularly reviewed and updated
- Providing training, including comprehensive induction
- Communicating information effectively
- Acting on any lone worker incident reports
- Providing supervision and support
Employees are responsible for:
- Attending training
- Reading and understanding relevant policies
- Following policies and procedures
- Using personal protective equipment if provided
- Carrying a personal safety device if provided
- Taking care of personal safety and that of others
- Reporting any incidents where they feel at risk
- Reporting any accidents, near misses or acts of aggression
General advice on staying safe
Taking the above list into account, there are also many common sense ways you can generally make sure you remain safe when working alone.
Things you must do:
Always let people know your whereabouts
This could be your manager, a colleague or the office staff. Someone should always know where you are at any given time. At least one other person must be aware that you’re working alone and how long for.
Carry out your own mini risk assessment
It is your employers responsibility to carry out risk assessments but you must never just rely on this. Always take time to consider and identify for yourself any possible safety issues. You may pick up on something or have knowledge that someone else has missed.
Follow relevant safety training and guidelines
It is easy to become complacent or over confident in a role. Perhaps you’ve done the job for a long time or you know the area and the task in hand really well. however, even the most experienced and confident workers can run into unforeseen challenges. Never forget or ignore health and safety advice. Remember your training at all times and follow appropriate safety guidelines.
Carry a personal alarm
A personal alarm can be a lifesaver. They are a quick and easy way to alert others and get the assistance you need, whilst scaring off any attacker. They should be carried and be accessible at all times.
Things to avoid:
Never assume it won’t happen to you
It is essential you take responsibility for your own safety. Never cut corners, stay alert and prepared. Those who forget or ignore the basic rules or lone worker safety are often the ones who get into trouble.
Don’t attempt anything that cannot be done safely alone
Consider the task you are trying to undertake. Can you really do it safely alone? It may take longer and it may be more hassle to leave the task and wait for others t help, but this is a small cost to avoid dangerous accidents.
Ignoring your instincts
If something is telling you a situation is uncomfortable, don’t do it! This could be anything from fixing machinery alone to entering a client’s premises if you feel threatened.
Engage in Learning provide an engaging and robust eLearning Lone Worker training course. This course will explore all the legal responsibilities, the possible risks associated with lone working and steps you must take to minimise risk.