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The employer should assess whether the workplace itself presents a special risk to the lone worker.  Establishing a healthy and safe working environment for lone workers can be different to organising the health and safety of other employees.

Employers need to know the law and standards that apply to their work activities, and then assess whether they can meet those legal obligations for people working alone.   Lone workers face particular problems and these should be taken into account when making a risk assessment. Lets examine of these problems.

The employer should assess whether the workplace itself presents a special risk to the lone worker.

  • Is there a safe way in and a way out for one person
  • Can all the machinery and goods involved in the workplace be safely handled by one person
  • Are there any chemicals or hazardous substances being used that may pose a risk to the lone worker
  • Manual handling needs to be assessed for the lone worker
  • Can all the plant, substances and goods involved in the work be safely handled by one person?

Employers should consider whether the work involves lifting objects too which may be too large for one person or whether more than one person is needed to operate essential controls for the safe running of equipment.

It should be assessed if women or young workers are especially put at risk if they work alone carrying out their day to day duties. There are some high-risk activities where at least one other person may need to be present.

Examples include, some high-risk confined space working where a supervisor may need to be present, as well as someone dedicated to a rescue role or electrical work at or near exposed live conductors where at least two people are sometimes required.

The lone worker, should also be assessed to establish if they are medically fit and suitable to work alone. If they are young, pregnant or disabled, this may make them particularly at risk if they work alone.

It should be established, if there any other reasons why the individual, for example they may be a trainee, and therefore this may be more vulnerable than others.   If the lone worker’s first language is not English, are there suitable arrangements in place to ensure clear communication to them, especially in an emergency.

If a person has a medical condition, are they able to work alone.  Employers need to check that lone workers have no medical conditions that may make them unsuitable for working alone.

If this is the case then it would be prudent to seek medical advice if necessary.  Both routine work and foreseeable emergencies should be considered that may impose additional physical and mental burdens on an individual.

If a lone-worker becomes ill, it should be assessed as to what should happen in this situation or what would happen if they had an accident or there was another emergency.  Employers must consider all of the risks that can face their employees, including the risk of reasonably foreseeable violence and decide how significant these risks are to the lone-worker.

Apart from the obvious workers who could be subject to potential violence there are other not so obvious examples like utility meter readers who have to enter households on their own.   Employers must decide what to do to prevent or control the risks; and develop a clear management plan to achieve this. Is the lone worker sufficiently trained to diffuse aggressive or violent behaviour or to undertake the necessary action to remain safe.