Lone working does not only happen when you work in complete isolation from others: it might just be that you are the only person in a particular part of the workplace; or that everyone else in your office is away somewhere else for the day, or parts of it; or that you are just the first or the last person in the workplace.
Risk assessment needed
Your employer has a duty to assess the risks to its staff from lone working – this should be part of the general risk assessment. This guidance has been produced to assist reps and members ensure adequate control of the risks from lone working across a variety of situations.
Why is lone working a particular hazard?
In a normal office situation, one has the support of colleagues if things go wrong. There are other people who can assist, who can take charge, who can summon emergency services. If you are alone, you are the only person who can do these things.
If you are alone, you may be more vulnerable to assault or attack, either from an aggrieved member or from a stranger. Such people are less likely to attack where more than one person is present.
If you work with direct supervision from a line manager, they are able to monitor your working methods, identify and correct any short cuts or dangerous practices. If you work alone, you may have to carry out your own assessments and make your own judgements about what is safe to do and what you should avoid.
Risk assessment for lone working
The Health and Safety Executive recommend a 5 stage approach to risk assessment:
- Identify the hazards;
- Decide who might be harmed, and how;
- Evaluate the risks – and decide whether existing precautions are adequate, or does more need to be done;
- Record the findings;
- Review assessment and revise if necessary.
Where might lone working occur?
There are many types of lone working, which fall into a broad range of categories:
Lone working in buildings:
- Early starters/late finishers
- Security staff patrolling buildings or grounds
- Reception duties
- Working in small offices where you may be the only person in on a particular day (or for part of it)
Working away from your usual workplace:
- attending training courses/conferences
- travelling to/from meetings/recruitment events
- staying away from home overnight
- visiting members of the public at their home or work
- visiting staff
- those without a fixed workplace
Risk assessments should identify those who work alone and a vital part of the control of risk is effective awareness training. All staff who may undertake lone working should receive suitable training.
General advice on lone working and on risk assessment is available through the Health and Safety Executive website.
Advice on lone working in safety can also be found, or purchased, through the Suzy Lamplugh Trust site.
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