Is working alone legal? Is it safe to work alone? Common questions that employers and employees might both have. This blog will answer these questions in addition to giving advice on reducing lone working risk.
Is Working Alone Illegal?
Short answer…no! Working alone is not against the law and many people (8 million at the last estimate) work alone in the UK, the vast majority of these people work alone very safely.
However, UK law requires employers to consider carefully, and then try to reduce any health and safety risks for their employees. An employer must be able to show that they have done everything reasonably possible to look after their staff. As lone workers may face additional risks to their non-lone working colleagues, it’s recommended that you pay extra close attention to ensuring lone worker safety.
When Is Working Alone a Bad Idea?
The law doesn’t say that you cant employ people to work alone, but as mentioned you need to show that you have done everything reasonably possible to protect your employees.
However, there are some situations where working alone could be ruled as not protecting your employees because you have put them in a dangerous situation that can’t be controlled enough to cover all eventualities.
Working alone can be incredibly risky when working with members of the public or in places where emotions are high or unpredictable. Anywhere where alcohol or drugs are involved can also significantly raise the risk posed to your staff.
Just think of places like betting shops, closing time at a bar or club, and people who work with people with mental health/drug/alcohol problems. Sometimes these conditions can be too risky to expect a member of staff to work in and they would be in the eyes of the law too.
This is why it’s so important to carry out a risk assessment. A good risk assessment identifies each hazard, gives a score on the chances of this happening (medium/high/low) and encourages you to think how you can reduce that particular risk.
If you have done a risk assessment and found that your employees are entering high-risk situations and you can’t do anything to reduce that level of risk or put anything in place to help protect the employee, then you need to consider if it’s a good idea for them to work alone. Some tasks or places of work simply require more than one person to be present to make it ‘safe’.
What Can You Do To Reduce Lone Working Risks?
In the event of an incident, if it’s a serious one, certain authorities or courts may want to know what steps you took to ensure the safety of your lone workers. We all know that it isn’t possible to be 100% safe, all of the time, but that’s no excuse to not put in place certain procedures or remove employees from situations that just can’t be managed in a reasonably safe way.
As mentioned, a lone working risk assessment is the first step to protecting your lone workers. This will make it clear if your employee should be working alone at all. If the risk isn’t significantly high, you can look at measures to help prevent incidents.
If you have staff working alone, a lone worker policy will also need to be put in place to help guide them and make decisions for their own safety. A lone worker policy should detail all the situations your lone worker will encounter, how they should handle the environment and make clear any procedures and protocols they need to follow to protect themselves, or in an emergency situation.
Once a lone worker risk assessment has been done and your policy drafted, you may consider lone worker alarms. Providing your lone workers with a safety device has numerous benefits; it can be used as a prevention tool, reduce employee stress levels, and of course get them the help they need quickly in an emergency.
Lone worker devices also benefit you as an employer by giving you visibility over your lone workers’ safety status and location. It sends out the right message about your organization and their attitude to safety. It can also be used to show that you are going to a reasonable expense and effort to ensure the safety of your staff.
First2HelpYou Advice on Working Alone
If you think your employees may need lone worker devices but aren’t sure, then get in touch and we can help advise you. we can also assist and offer guidance on risk assessments and lone worker policy. Contact us for more information.