A Guide to Lone Worker Risk Assessment
The purpose of a lone worker risk assessment is to identify hazards and then remove them, or at least minimise the level of risk, by adding necessary control measures or changing the work process. This will help make your lone workers safer and your organisation a responsible one.
Lone Worker Risk Assessment and the Law
It isn’t illegal to work alone, but under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, you must assess risks to health and safety, including those associated with lone working. You are then legally obligated to eliminate OR minimize hazards to the lowest possible level.
Why Do Lone Workers Need a Specific Assessment?
Lone workers may be at more risk of harm than colleagues who are accompanied or supervised. When people work in groups or teams, hazards are still present but having colleagues around means that any incident can be acted on quickly.
Many lone workers often enter situations or environments that pose risks that an office or factory worker wouldn’t encounter. For example; entering members of the public homes.
Identifying Lone Worker Hazards
Identifying hazards and then assessing the likeness of them occurring is the most important part of the lone worker risk assessment.
Although in some cases it isn’t possible to identify every single hazard, you must take care to document known ones. each of these hazards should then be evaluated as low, medium, or high.
Most hazards can be broken down into the following categories:
Are there any hazards that are unique to the lone worker being assessed? Identify any personal hazards which may create risk. For example, a disability or medical condition, age, sex, and level of experience. Take, for example, somebody with asthma – what impact could an asthma attack have if the employee was alone, or driving?
What hazards are specific to the lone worker’s environment? Remember, if your lone workers travel to different locations, you need to list as many hazards you can think of in each of these locations. The hazards may be similar across multiple locations; lone workers visiting homes, for example, may visit many properties within one day, but the hazards may be the same at each. dogs, people, etc.
Identify hazards specific to the individual’s work process, which may pose a risk. Process hazards exist in many types of businesses including warehousing, manufacturing and the service industries. Examples include the risk of hair/limbs getting caught, risk of explosions, or burns.
List equipment that the lone worker will come in contact with and what the associated risks are. This can vary massively from job to job, but common items include electrical equipment or harmful chemical substances, or medicines. For mobile lone workers, even a car should be considered as equipment.
Are there any activities carried out which would be considered out of the norm for most employees? For example, working unusual hours or in unusual places. Also, consider the employee’s route to work or hazards leaving premises.
Try to identify sources of violence to the lone worker. The two biggest risks for lone workers are property intruders or service users/members of the public. Assess the likelihood of different types of violence, for example, physical or verbal. In some roles, verbal assaults may be a common hazard, but the risk of physical violence low.
Lone Working Control Measures
Once lone worker hazards have been identified and the level of risk posed to employees, you must put in place control measures to either eliminate the hazards or reduce the risk level as much as possible.
These may include:
- Redesigning work patterns or schedules to ensure staff aren’t working alone
- Reducing the amount of time spent working alone
- Training to be given to lone workers which would help reduce risk levels
- Issuing lone worker devices to staff
Dynamic Risk Assessments
A dynamic risk assessment is described as:
“The continuous process of identifying hazards, assessing risk, taking action to eliminate or reduce risk, monitoring and reviewing, in the rapidly changing circumstances of an operational incident.”
Being able to effectively risk assess a moving situation is an important skill for a lone worker to possess for them to keep themselves safe.
Although a lone worker risk assessment should be thorough, in some job roles the nature of the work and subjects can be unpredictable, making it impossible to predict ALL hazards. Therefore, we recommend all lone workers undertake training in how to carry out a dynamic risk assessment.
This useful skill will give lone workers the ability to handle any undocumented hazards as they arise.
Reviewing Lone Worker Risk Assessments
Lone worker risk assessments should be reviewed on a regular basis – at least annually. That is unless an incident occurs which involves previously unseen hazards. All incidents should be reported, documented, and the risk assessment considered.
The risk assessment should also be revised each time a lone worker changes their place of work or duties.