The issue of lone working has once again been thrust into the national spotlight and it has been brought to the public attention in the most shocking of ways. Mathew Colley explains why going to work should not be an issue of life or death.
In days gone by, any mention of ‘health and safety in the workplace’ is likely to have been met with an obligatory rolling of the eyes and visions of office buildings, construction sites and employee brochures littered with warnings not to smoke near flammable gas cylinders or eat next to toxic waste containers.
But health and safety at work is not about insulting workers’ intelligence with endless rules or keeping a 24-hour track of their movements. It is about the very real need to keep them safe whilst they do their jobs.
Every worker has that right - whatever their title or pay grade and whatever industry they work in.
The latest news story to hit the headlines regarding health and safety processes - specifically the policy of lone working - is nothing short of shocking. It revolves around the brutal murder of a father of three, who was battered to death by a gambler who lost money on fixed-odds betting terminals and another young worker who was raped and left for dead by an angry punter - both whilst apparently working alone at branches of betting firm Ladbrokes.
Tabloid newspaper The Mirror claims the firm saved £200million in wages over five years, partly by forcing staff to work alone, whilst the company’s former head of health and safety-turned-whistleblower, Bill Bennett, has accused the firm of putting profits before the health and safety of its employees.
Chief executive Jim Mullen has dismissed the suggestion he has put profits before lives alt-hough he has admitted to “serious systemic failures in the operation of Ladbrokes’ health and safety processes... particularly in respect of staff training, efficacy of shop premises and staff risk assessments”.
I do not claim to know the definitive lone working practices at Ladbrokes - as every company and organisation in the UK has their own guidelines - but this truly horrific article really brings home the importance of talking about lone working and identifying if enough really is being done by companies and organisations - however large or small - to keep every member of staff safe.
There’s still no actual law in place specifically addressing lone working in the UK - but em-ployers 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, damaged reputation - or even tragedy - should the worst happen.
The issue of lone working is continuing its steady creep into public consciousness and cases like the one highlighted in The Mirror mean more workers are also becoming more aware of their right to feel safe in their workplace and are demanding action.
Lone workers have many faces, in many industries - not just those working on their own late into the evening at a betting shop. It is the window cleaner working 10 storeys high. It is It is the cleaner mopping the third-floor of the huge office block after dark. It is the social worker out visiting strangers’ homes. It is the nurse manning a busy A&E on a Friday night. It is the scientist locked in a coded laboratory surrounded by chemicals. It is the shop worker walking to her car after a night shift. It is the warehouse supervisor locking up after the machines have been shut down. It is the driver travelling the country in charge of a lorry-load worth tens of thousands of pounds. It is the factory worker negotiating rows of shelves stocked with heavy pallets in a forklift truck. They all have a right to go back home to the comfort of their homes and families after the working day or night is done.
The case involving Ladbrokes has highlighted the fact that failings in health and safety pro-cesses can have tragic consequences. Going to work should never be about life or death.
Article Code: LABL0616