All businesses and institutions that require employees to work alone should carry out a full and comprehensive lone-worker risk assessment. Safety policies are important for lone workers as they make both the worker and their employer aware of the occupational health and safety hazards they face. Both workers and employers can then take steps to mitigate these risks and create a safer working environment.
A lone worker risk assessment should form part of a company’s lone worker policy. The document should outline the workplace hazards lone workers face, set out the business rules on working alone, and describe the safety procedures both employer and employee are required to follow to reduce the risks.
What Are the Risks of Lone Working?
The exact safety risks faced by lone workers will depend on the industry they’re employed in and on their role within the workplace. Common lone working risks include:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Environmental hazards, such as fire and gas leaks
- Assault by a colleague, customer, or member of the public
- Medical emergency
These risks are all amplified when working alone. Customers, guests, or strangers may be more likely to attack someone working alone and, if an employee doesn’t receive first aid quickly following an incapacitating accident or medical emergency, the results could be much more serious.
How to Create a Lone Worker Risk Assessment
A lone worker risk assessment should cover all potential hazards faced by lone workers in an organization. As well as identifying hazards, the document should list the safety measures put in place to mitigate them. Risk assessment templates and risk assessment examples can be found on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.
Identify the Hazards
The first step in creating a lone working risk assessment is hazard identification. Employer and employee should work together to identify the potential risks involved in a particular work activity or role. For example, employees working in high-risk areas like confined spaces, or with dangerous chemicals, will face different hazards to those working in retail or hospitality environments.
Determine Mitigation and Response Procedures
Determining mitigation and response procedures is an important part of creating a comprehensive risk assessment. Risks can often be reduced by employing relevant technologies. Staff members can use their phones to check in with a line manager at regular intervals and CCTV can be used to monitor lone workers during their shift.
Safety devices for lone workers can also help to improve lone worker safety. Wireless Bluetooth panic buttons allow employees to call for help silently and instantly if they feel their personal safety is at risk.
Putting response procedures in place will ensure staff know exactly what to do in case of an emergency. They can also save time, help to keep employees calm, and ensure help is summoned as quickly as possible.
Develop a Training Plan
Proper training is an integral part of creating a safe work environment. Safety training
should cover a company’s safety policies, emergency procedures, and incident reporting. If employees are required to use personal protective equipment (PPE), this should also be included in the training plan.
Employers should incorporate safety training into the orientation process for new employees. They should also create a schedule of top-up training sessions to ensure all staff members are well-versed in safety protocol.
Monitor and Document Incidents
Though prevention is the goal of any lone working policy or risk assessment, sometimes accidents and incidents happen. If something does go wrong in a workplace, it’s important that the event is fully documented. Even near misses should be monitored as this provides the employer with valuable information. As much detail as possible should be included in this documentation.
Review and Update Based on the Findings
It’s good practice to carry out regular audits of past incidents. Reviewing accidents that resulted in serious injuries or even fatalities will help to inform a company’s safety policy and allow them to update and improve it. This is especially important if the level of risk faced by lone workers changes for any reason, for example, because of recently diagnosed medical conditions, new equipment, or new working practices.
Lone Worker Risk Assessment Checklist
Running through a lone worker risk assessment checklist will help to ensure an employer has done as much as possible to protect their staff members. It can also help to identify hazards and fill in any information missing from the initial risk assessment.
The worker is trained to use safety equipment?
Providing a safe workplace is a legal requirement. A major part of this involves training staff on the correct use of safety equipment. Safety equipment is a broad term that can include everything from PPE and medical equipment to tech that controls the functionality of machines and processes. Staff need to know exactly how to use this equipment, especially if they’re working on their own.
Are there environmental hazards?
Environmental hazards can include:
- Dangerous chemicals
- Air pollution
- Toxic waste
- Heavy metals
- Extreme heat or cold
Other environmental hazards may be present depending on the industry and location of the business. It may be possible to control the risk level of these hazards by issuing staff members with PPE or by installing alarms to monitor harmful substances.
Are there any dangerous situations that may occur?
Thinking about the dangerous situations that are most likely to occur can help businesses to be better prepared. For example, if there is a high risk of violence in a motel, hospital or bar, the employer could pre-empt a violent incident by hiring security personnel, issuing staff with panic buttons, or putting entry control measures in place.
If the most likely danger comes from mishandling of dangerous chemicals or misuse of equipment, extra training could reduce the chances of an accident or ill health.
Can lone workers communicate with others in case of an emergency?
If lone workers aren’t under the direct supervision of a manager, it’s important that they can communicate with others while at work. If this isn’t possible, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration recommend employers check in on lone workers visually or verbally at regular intervals throughout their shifts.
Are lone workers trained to document and report hazards and incidents?
Documenting and reporting workplace hazards and dangerous incidents is essential to building a detailed risk assessment. Because lone workers are on their own, they need to know exactly how to document any unsafe situations they come across.
Carrying out a thorough and comprehensive risk assessment is an important part of identifying hazards and developing safety procedures. Find out more, and learn how our panic buttons can protect lone workers across all industries, by taking a look around or getting in touch with a member of our team.