Lone Working At Night
Shift working can have plenty of benefits for businesses and customers, and for many, lone working at night is a reality.
It is legal to lone work at night and, providing appropriate steps are taken, perfectly safe.
In this article you will find a risk breakdown of working alone at night, as well as some practical tips to help you address the risk.
What Are The Risks of Working Alone At Night?
Night time lone workers face pretty much the same risks as day time lone workers, except for two very important differences: they are more likely to become fatigued, and they are much more isolated.
The risk of assault also increases as the night rolls by, as this research by the ONS points out, slightly over half of all violent crimes are committed at night. And, as the image shows below, 21% of violence is committed at work, usually by an acquaintance of the victim.
Depending on the job role, the biggest risk can come from isolation and the lack of support.
Now, you might think that lone workers are naturally isolated and lack close support. But as we explain in this article, a lone worker is usually out of at least ear shot of their supervisor but can be surrounded by service users, members of the public, or team mates.
It is reasonable to think that if your staff member had a heart attack in a remote corner of a warehouse, they would be found fairly quickly.
But at night, that person could not be found until the next morning.
Not only that, but it is easier to alert an escalation contact or call for internal support during the day. But at 4am, help might be more difficult to rouse.
Humans are built to be asleep during the night. We have evolved to be safely tucked up asleep during darkness.
Even the most seasoned night worker might feel tiredness creeping in in the dead of the night. And, unlike day workers, they can’t get 5 minutes of daylight to wake themselves back up.
And speaking of daylight, working in artificial light for long periods can cause fatigue, which is unavoidable if you are only in work during the night.
There is a strong and direct correlation between an increase in tiredness and an increase in accidents.
Fatigue makes it much more likely your lone worker will have an accident. Their job role and environment will influence how devastating that accident is.
How to Reduce The Risks Of Working Alone At Night
There are some steps you can take to mitigate the hazards above.
1) Provide Facilities
During the day you might have a canteen open or break out spaces for staff to have a rest or get something to eat. If these shut down once the day shift have left, consider keeping it open for night time workers to be able to have the same advantages.
If this isn’t feasible, consider installing vending machines or giving access to a microwave and kettle so that night time lone workers can have a break and something to eat.
Having that rest period away from their work station or desk will make them feel more alert during their work activities. Plus, by facilitating colleagues to socialise with each other, they will be more aware of who is in the building or area and will therefore be aware if someone is missing.
2) Risk management/assessment
Don’t assume that your day time lone worker risk assessment is suitable for those working alone at night. It very likely isn’t, because the hazards and risks will have altered.
The same applies for your lone worker policy. Chances are, your procedures that work well during the day aren’t as effective for those lone working at night, as the circumstances are different.
Make sure you carry out separate assessments to ensure you understand the unique risks and hazards facing the lone worker at night and wrap your lone worker policy around it.
3) Consider Providing a Lone Worker Device
A lone worker fob or app is a great way of protecting your staff who work alone.
Easily worn, your staff can feel confident that they have support at the push of a button. A trained operator will be listening in to see what help is needed and taking the most appropriate course of action, depending on the situation.
The Man Down function on the KIT Device will trigger a red alert if the wearer falls over or is suddenly impacted with something. This can save the life of an isolated worker if they are injured or taken ill.
In the case of an attack, the police can be called using a Unique Reference Number, which speeds the process up and guarantees ‘level 1’ emergency police response with a pinpointed location, thanks to the GPS on the lone worker fobs.
For the sake of a few quid a month it is definitely worth looking into.
4) Make Adjustments
Lone worker policies are important, but there are other policies that might need adapting for those who work during the nights.
For example, changing the location of certain tasks so two shift workers are together will help to protect them both.
Or, consider making it policy for lone workers to do the most dangerous tasks at the start of shift when more people are around. This is a simple way of reducing the likelihood of that dangerous task leaving the lone worker injured and unable to rouse assistance.
You might also be able to have a move around of equipment and resources. Granted, this might not be feasible for all, but if you have a cleaner who needs to make regular trips to an outside bin, moving the outside bin closer to the building in a well-lit area would make that task safer.
5) Reduce the Likelihood of Fatigue
As we have said, tiredness leads to accidents. So reducing the likelihood of your lone workers becoming tired and careless on shifts a smart idea and shouldn’t take too much effort.
Introducing mandatory regular breaks is a small step that can make a difference. You could, for example, introduce two 15 minute breaks and one half hour, instead of one full hour. This will mean that the workers get time to rest and come back to their task refreshed and focused.
Review the lighting in your buildings. Low, dim lights can lead to a feeling of tiredness, so consider switching your bulbs.
There are lots of ways you can reduce the risks faced by lone working at night. A lone worker device is very effective in making sure help is on its way quickly, but it should be part of a broader approach.
We are always happy to discuss risk management with you and advise on suitable methods. Drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0333 772940.