The number of lone workers in the UK is increasing, fuelled by advances in technology that enable employees to work alone. This leap forward in efficiency is great for small businesses, but care must be taken to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that your lone workers are protected in case of accident or injury. Failure to put necessary precautions and processes in place could place your employees in danger while also threatening the future of your business. In this article we look at the law governing lone workers, and the steps to take to ensure the safety of your employees who work alone.
The problem for many small businesses is that the extent of employee legislation, and the lack of specific legislation governing lone workers, leads them to conclude that they don’t need to make special dispensation for them. Despite the absence of specific regulation, there is a raft of employee legislation including the Health & Safety at Work Act and the lesser known Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act. In summary, they stipulate that all employee duties should be risk assessed and that necessary precautions should be taken to ensure that employees remain safe during their working day. This is far more challenging for lone workers, who may be exposed to risks of threat or danger – particularly if they work remotely, unsupervised or in hazardous environments.
Steps to take to protect lone workers
Small businesses can protect their lone workers by:
- Consulting with employees to identify the risks they may encounter, and provide training to minimise these
- Taking practical steps to minimise the identified risks, such as ensuring that equipment is well maintained
- Identifying tasks that may be dangerous to be carried out by a lone worker who may be working in remote or isolated conditions
- Ensuring that when an employee is working alone at a different location, they are aware of the risks and the required control measures
- Addressing situations where lone workers can’t work alone by providing help or back-up for lone workers in vulnerable situations
- Making sure that sales staff, and those who work out of hours, are considered and protected
- Providing employees with a means of communicating with their managers through a lone worker alarm
However thorough and conscientious a company is with regards to the safety of their employees, lone workers are still vulnerable to factors beyond their control such as suffering from serious illness while at work; being the target of violence; or suffering a fall or more serious accident. In these circumstances a lone worker protection device – either one incorporated into their mobile device or standalone equipment – would be advantageous. They enable lone workers to raise the alarm in the event of an incident; take precautionary measures by checking in with an employer before they enter a high-risk environment; and even alert an employer if they have had an accident and are unable to physically raise the alarm.
Lone worker devices are by no means a silver bullet that solves all the issues posed by lone working, but are an effective tool for small business to use in order to minimise the risks faced by employees.
Lone workers are a growing part of the workforce for small businesses – but care must be taken to ensure that adequate provision is made for their safety, as the consequences of not doing so could be potentially fatal for your employees, and your business.
Article by Mathew Colley of LONEALERT, the UK’s provider of lone worker protection solutions, offering a range of lone worker alarms, man-down devices and solutions to protect staff who work alone or at height.