With about 6M lone workers in the United Kingdom, it is crucial that employers mitigate the risk associated with lone working, especially during winter months.
It is estimated that roughly 6M people in the United Kingdom regularly work in isolation or without supervision, very frequently in places or circumstances that can put them at risk. And the number of lone workers in the United Kingdom is expected to continue rising in the future, mainly driven by the advances in wireless communications and the rising cost of properties, encouraging employers to reduce their office space.
Thus, there is a clear need for business owners and employers to consider the policies in place to safeguard workers whose role may involve working unsupervised.
What exactly is a lone worker?
Even though there is no common definition of a lone worker across countries, there does appear to be some common points in the definition across the United Kingdom. The HSE or Health and Safety Executive defines lone workers as ‘employees who work by themselves without direct supervision’, whilst the NHS – the largest employer in the United Kingdom – defines a lone worker as ‘employees who work, either frequently or sporadically, on their own, without access to instant support from managers or work colleagues.
Lone working can be both intimidating and sometimes dangerous. The protection of lone workers involves a two-fold approach, not only to protect the actual safety of the employee, but also to provide reassurances to the workers involved.
The risks faced by these employees generally fall within 3 main groups; verbal or physical violence and aggression; occupational risks such as trips, falls or slips; personal wellbeing risks like medical conditions. Whilst the aforementioned risks are not exclusive to lone working, they are usually greater, and if an incident does happen, the alarm might not be raised until it’s too late. These risks may be even higher as winter draws in and the nights start becoming longer.
Employers and business owners have an obligation to keep their lone workers safe under the Health and Safety at Work Act as well as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. Employers and business owners have a duty to assess risks to lone workers and to actually take steps to avoid, reduce or control risks where necessary.
Address the issue
In order to address those important issues, the private security industry has worked with the authorities and end-users to develop a combination of technology, practice and standards, capable of providing an efficient and cost-effective solution to lower risks.
Whilst there is an enormous selection of lone worker devices available out there on the market, usually devices provided by a trustworthy supplier will offer similar functionalities. Some of these functions may include a two-way audio connection between the user and the Alarm Receiving Centre; GPS tracking and monitoring; the popular ‘Man down’ lone worker alarm, which automatically raises the alarm if an impact is detected; and the capability to record evidence for prosecution purposes. Applications for smartphones are also available as an alternative to utilising a dedicated device, which is a perfectly viable option for those that don’t want to carry around additional devices.
The section has also led to the development of a Code of Practice for the provision of Lone Worker Services, which forms the underlying basis for police response to lone worker systems. This important standard is adhered to by all reliable suppliers in the industry; a Police response can’t be fully guaranteed by a supplier who is not audited and compliant with the regulations. Lone worker solutions that are compliant the current regulations through audit guarantees that at-risk workers are provided with the most cost-effective level of protection. Compliant solutions protect employers and business owners from litigation and legislation.