Controlling the risks associated with lone working

A recent British Crime Survey revealed a shocking figure: up to 150 lone workers are attacked every day.

According to the Office for National Statistics, up to 25% of the UK workforce undertake some form of lone working. Yet lone workers are often overlooked, leading to a failure to protect their health, safety and wellbeing.

In 2006, Ashleigh Ewing, a support assistant for the charity Mental Health Matters, was stabbed 39 times by a service user who had a history of violence during a support visit to their home. The charity was subsequently fined £50,000 for a breach of section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act, for failing to do all that was reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of its employees.

Deciding how to improve the safety of your lone workers is crucial. Employers must understand, and deal with, any potential risks before they allow employees to work alone.

It is essential for organisations to embed a safety culture within the workplace, providing training to managers and proactively managing the safety of lone workers. Organisations ignoring this face serious consequences – including damaged reputation, low staff morale, compensation and fines.

What should you be doing?

Lone working doesn’t have to mean being physically alone. It can also refer to those working on a separate task at a significant distance from their team or their manager.

Senior managers should ensure their organisation provides training and support for line managers so that they can effectively manage the risks associated with lone working.

Here are a few steps you should take:

  • develop and implement suitable policies and procedures
  • provide training as part of a robust induction programme
  • promote good communication – call your lone workers occasionally to see how they are and initiate “safe” calls at the end of each day
  • regularly share your safety tips
  • encourage and support dynamic risk assessment and a clear “walk away” policy
  • invest in safety devices or lone working systems
  • encourage incident reporting
  • offer post incident support
  • implement an employee assistance programme on mental health and wellbeing

If you would like more help on how to mitigate the risks of lone working, please get in touch with Mark Littlejohns at m.littlejohns@capital-people.co.uk