How to Identify Lone Workers in Your Organisation

In the UK it’s estimated that over 6 million of us are lone workers, but what does this mean and what exactly counts as lone working?

According to the Health and Safety Executive, by definition a lone worker is someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision.

Lone Workers are all around us, they are the nurses working in the community, the shopkeepers in our local store, the engineer that fixes our faulty boiler and the delivery driver that brings us a takeaway.

For somebody to be a lone worker it doesn’t mean they have to be completely alone in isolation all of the time. If an employee cannot be seen or heard by a colleague then they are technically lone working, even if it’s just for a brief period of time.

In fact, most of us have probably found ourselves lone working from time to time without even realising it.

Lone Workers Can Be Vulnerable

The danger with working alone is that if something were to go wrong (such as an accident, injury, sudden illness or assault) it makes it harder or even impossible for an individual to seek help. Someone by themselves could also be seen as an easier target for anybody wishing to cause harm.

For these reasons, employers are advised to take precautions to ensure their lone workers are monitored and looked after – especially if they encounter risks such as working at height, around large vehicles, heavy machinery or hazardous substances.

Personal safety devices are commonly issued to staff for scenarios when they are working alone so that they can alert others fast if there’s a problem.

Checklist: Do You Employ Lone Workers?

To help employers establish whether they have lone workers, we’ve produced a quick reference checklist. If you can answer yes to the following then your organisation employs lone workers and you’ll need to take sufficient steps to protect them.

Do your employees:

  • Work in complete isolation from others, either permanently or on certain occasions?
  • Travel alone to attend meetings, home visits, business trips or other events off the premises by themselves?
  • Arrive on site before others to open up or start an early shift e.g. cleaning staff?
  • Stay behind to work late or lock up after hours?
  • Work apart from other colleagues even if in a public place in the presence of others e.g. a receptionist, teacher or shop worker?
  • Work remotely or from home?

Additional questions:

  • Are there areas where employees work in isolation for specific tasks e.g. going into a stock room to retrieve goods?
  • Are there scenarios where an employee may be left alone at a certain time of day e.g. covering breaks, lunchtime or if other staff members are on leave?
  • Do you work across a large premises that is spread over a wide area and has isolated areas away from others e.g. a factory or warehouse, building site, hospital or school?
  • Are employees able to hear others clearly or is there noisy machinery or anything else that may hinder their ability to get others’ attention quickly?

Of course, these questions are not an exhaustive list but they do provide a good starting point. The best way for employers to get the full picture, is to speak to their employees so they have a clear understanding of what their roles entail and to what extent they involve lone working.