Who Are Lone Workers?
Who are lone workers? A lone worker is classified as someone who works alone without direct or close supervision. There are around six million people in the UK working either without direct supervision or in isolation.
These people are at greater risk of being attacked, not receiving medical help if they are taken ill, or suffering an industrial injury.
A lone worker device can be a lifeline. It enables an individual to raise the alarm, have their location pinpointed, and request emergency assistance if needed. Even if they are unable to activate their device themselves, we have solutions that will automatically activate if a person has fallen, or not checked in to say they are ok.
It is easy to assume that a person working with the public is not a lone worker, as they are not physically alone, but they would still be considered a lone worker. Confusing? Let’s take a look at types of lone workers and the risks they might face.
Who Are Lone Workers?
The term ‘lone worker’ is pretty broad and can cover a wide array of job roles but can be broken down into three categories; public facing, fixed location, and mobile.
Public Facing Lone Workers:
Public facing lone workers are those who, as the name suggests, work with members of the public. Unsurprisingly, the biggest risk to them is usually the actual public themselves.
Public facing workers who might be around lots of people all the time include:
- Housing officers
- Hospital workers such as nurses, doctors, and healthcare assistants
- Petrol station attendants
- Fairground attendants
Or, they might be working one-on-one with the public, sometimes in their own environments. These types of lone workers could include:
- District nurses or midwives
- Probation officers
- Gas or electrical engineers
- Mobile hairdressers
Fixed Location Lone Workers
Workers who generally have one location for work are considered to be fixed location workers. These individuals tend to be out of sight and earshot of their nearest colleagues or supervisors. They might include:
- Security Guards
- Factory or warehouse workers
- New home sales people
- Hospital porters
Mobile Lone Workers
Mobile lone workers are those who work at a variety of locations. They may have a fixed base but conduct their activities at different locations in the day. They sometimes are at risk from the public or their environment, and have the added risk of traffic accidents.
These types of workers could include:
- Lorry Drivers
- Tree surgeons, park rangers, or groundskeepers
- Taxi drivers
- Midwives and District Nurses (again)
Risks Of Working Alone
The risks to lone workers can be broken down into three categories; public, environmental, and illness.
Unfortunately, working with the public carries the risk of attack, abuse, or even abduction. The risk is increased if the service users are vulnerable, or have secondary needs or issues, such as those accessing the probation services, sheltered accommodation, or drug/alcohol rehabilitation services.
Protecting workers with a discreet device or app allows them to raise the alarm whenever they feel threatened.
Each job role carries its own hazards, which a thorough risk assessment can help to identify. Electrocution, adverse weather, machinery, and falls from heights are all examples of the ways a person’s working environment can threaten their wellbeing.
Traffic accidents would also fall under this category, as mobile lone workers are subjected to an increased risk of being involved in an accident, regardless of how they travel around.
Illness or ill health
Even the healthiest of people can be taken unaware by a sudden onset illness or injury. Heart attacks and strokes are two obvious sudden, and devastating, illnesses which often happen without warning. Receiving help quickly can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
People with existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, or asthma, are also at high risk. In these circumstances, the lone worker may not be able to call for help themselves, which is why a lone worker solution can literally be a lifesaver.
Even injuries such as a sprained ankle, or head injury, can leave staff vulnerable and in need of assistance.
A supervised or accompanied person would receive help and support quickly in these situations, and the impact on their safety might not be severe.
However, a lone worker taking samples in a field who suddenly twists their ankle, for example, is very vulnerable indeed.
What are the Employer Responsibilities for Lone Worker Safety?
Working alone and unsupervised is not, illegal. However, the law does require employers conduct a thorough risk assessment and take measures to reduce risk.
The consequences of failing to do so can be extreme, and could result in prosecution, or worse, the death of a colleague.
But there are other consequences of failing to protect lone workers, which are not as extreme, but just as damaging to both your business and the lives of your staff, such as stress, prolonged absences, or injury.
These can result in a high turnover of staff, or difficulty hiring, all of which affect your bottom line.
Whilst the Health and Safety Executive has not set out specific laws for protecting just lone workers, the guidance is clear that the additional risks faced by lone workers should be assessed and mitigated in order to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
A lone worker safety solutions means you can comply with the guidance without having to have onerous support activities ongoing, leaving your staff to safely get on with their job.