Is it against the law to work alone or is the lone working risk too high? Our posts today discusses the law and lone working, reducing the risks and how to stay clear of falling on the wrong side of the law.
Lone Working Risk: Is it Against the Law to Work Alone?
The figures most commonly quoted, show that there are around six million workers in the UK. These figures aren’t always accurate due to high job turnover, people that may only work alone some of the time and of course, people that don’t classify themselves as lone workers.
If correct, those figures represent around 20% of the British workforce. Lone workers can be found in most organisations, carrying out various roles. As an example; the NHS employs up 100,000 healthcare professionals who work alone every day – around 9% of the NHS workforce.
As you can see, lone working is perhaps much more common than you might think so it can’t be illegal. Otherwise, why would there be so many lone workers in the UK.
While it’s not against the law to work alone, it is against the law for a business to put employees in unnecessary danger or fail to protect them.
This is where lone working becomes a grey area; lone working is inherently higher risk than working with colleagues around, so the dangers are higher.
What is an acceptable amount of risk?
Some may argue that no risk is ideal but of course, this isn’t possible – even sat at a desk in an office has risk factors.
The key to ensuring that your business doesn’t fall foul of the law when it comes to lone workers is to ensure that risks are measured appropriately, categorised and steps put in place to minimise or remove them.
Can You Work Alone Safely?
Working alone in a safe way is entirely possible. An employee should not have to go to work each day worried about safety risks or feeling vulnerable.
With statistics from the British Crime Survey indicating that up to 150 lone workers are attacked, physically and verbally, every day the risk is clearly still there when working alone.
There are new stories in the media each week about a lone worker being attacked – just this week photos and details were released about a paramedic who was attacked whilst doing her job. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon.
it is almost impossible to completely remove risks from a job, but as a business, you have the power to reduce the risk as much as possible and put procedures in place for when things do go wrong.
Legally Ensuring That You Are Doing Enough
Should an incident happen with one of your lone workers, an investigation would look closely at the risks involved and what you did to try and reduce them.
Here is the minimum that every business that employs lone workers should be doing:
Risk assessment – a risk assessment will enable you to accurately identify the risks to your staff. If unacceptable levels of risk are found and no controls can be put in place, then you should consider making the job a two-person role. Lower risks can be managed by procedure.
Lone worker procedure – put procedures in place for lone workers to follow in the event of an emergency or when risk is high. This should be an easy access document and staff should be fully briefed on all procedures related to lone working.
Lone worker devices – consider contacting a lone worker solution provider and getting your employees set up with lone worker devices. By doing this you are reducing risk and demonstrating that you are being proactive about protecting your staff.
If all these steps are followed correctly, working alone can be safe for everyone – it just takes careful management and good communication with your team.
For more information about lone worker devices, or how you can accurately assess lone worker risks in your business, get in touch with us.