When it comes down to it, the issue of lone working is not about job roles or functions. It’s not about experience or length of staff service. It’s not about hierarchy, titles or industries. And it’s not about pay scale either, for that matter.
Lone working is about people. And every worker has the right to feel safe as they do their job - whatever job that may be.
The issue of lone working is continuing its steady creep into public consciousness under the wider umbrella of health & safety matters as new legislation comes into force emphasising the importance of staff safety in the workplace.
There’s still no actual law in place specifically addressing lone working in the UK - but employers are becoming more and more aware that is their responsibility to provide a duty of care for their staff or face the consequences of a hefty fine and potentially irrefutably-damaged reputation should the worst happen - whether there’s currently a legal precedent for it or not.
And the issue has now been thrust into the national spotlight with news that Eurostar staff could strike over the alleged ‘victimisation’ of one of its workers - a train manager - who was apparently disciplined on the grounds of gross misconduct for objecting to working alone for a section of the route.
A potential strike which could halt Eurostar services over the Easter weekend, causing huge travel disruption, is of course the reason the story is generating so many newspaper column inches. But the publicity surrounding the case has brought the issue of lone working - as well as the many situations it can crop up in and the millions of people it can affect - straight into the forefront of people’s minds and has become a conversation point among employers, workers and their families.
I do not claim to know the definitive lone working practices at Eurostar - as every company and organisation in the UK has their own guidelines - but I am glad that the issue of lone working is now being talked about so openly on such a huge stage.
It is important to realise that the needs of every lone worker - and indeed every company employing lone workers - is different. There are many questions that need answering before proper policy can be put in place, sometimes the hardest one simply being: What exactly is a lone worker? This case alone shows how Eurostar’s interpretation of the national lone working guidelines is very different to that of the RMT, of which the worker in question is a member.
There are many grey areas when it comes to lone working policy, but keeping staff safe at work is surely black and white. There may not be a definitive law in place as yet but this fact remains: Every person who goes out to do their job is entitled to the right of a safe working environment. And it’s a step in the right direction that we are all now talking about it.
Article Code: BL20161