Protecting Facilities Management’s Lone Workers

In order to manage any premises efficiently, a facilities manager is likely to use the services of several different in-house teams as well as outsource jobs to multiple contractors during all hours of the day. The need to provide a continuous 24 hour service across multiple locations means that staff are often exposed to situations where they are left unsupervised and have to work alone. By nature, the facilities management industry will always employ a high proportion of lone workers. In addition, budget constraints have led to altered shift schedules and more tasks being fulfilled by one person rather than two.

Lone workers are defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘anyone who works by themselves or without close or direct supervision’. This covers those who are completing tasks out of direct sight or earshot of colleagues and supervisors, as well as those who travel alone to a location to complete their work.

In terms of facilities roles, the definition could cover security guards, night workers, receptionists and cleaning staff. It could also extend to catering operatives or grounds maintenance workers, depending on the circumstances of their work.

Security guard in control room monitoring CCTV

Understanding the risks

Facilities managers are responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone they employ to ensure the smooth operation of a site. Although tasks completed by lone workers aren’t necessarily more dangerous, risks to personal safety are largely encountered due to their vulnerability if something goes wrong.

Workers may experience abusive and violent behaviour from members of the public if a certain service is unavailable. More likely is that staff will suffer from a slip, trip or fall – the consequences for which increase in severity when there is no one around to provide assistance or call for help.

cleaner lying on the floor after falling down while working

When it comes to making on-the-spot decisions, lone workers are once again faced with an increased risk. No opportunity for a second opinion means a raised possibility of poor decision making – in some cases leading to workers placing themselves in unnecessary danger or in situations that can quickly escalate and become unmanageable for one person alone.

Mitigating the risk

It’s not necessary to complete a separate risk assessment for lone workers; however, a detailed risk assessment should identify the potential hazards for those working alone and put measures in place to eliminate or reduce these risks.

Facilities managers will be adept at completing risk assessments for their buildings; covering fire safety, the control of hazardous materials such as asbestos and the management of risks like legionnaires’ disease.

The HSE has recently updated its guidance on lone workers. It requires that lone workers are properly trained, monitored and supervised, and also that employers ‘keep in touch with them and respond to any incident’.

Fulfilling this requirement is made easier by the wide range of communications technology readily available; from smartphones that have become a part of everyday life to dedicated personal safety devices with GPS tracking, two-way audio and fall detection capabilities built in.

Utilising the check-in and check-out functionalities coupled with GPS position reporting provided by a lone working service, facilities managers are able to monitor the whereabouts of their staff. Working to strict SLAs (Service Level Agreements), jobs often have to be completed within certain timeframes. If a worker fails to turn up to their next job, their location can be tracked to understand if they have left the previous job. The facilities manager can then make contact to check if everything is ok.

If an incident has occurred, and a SOS alarm has been raised, all devices are connected to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). Peoplesafe’s is solely dedicated to handling lone worker alarms with expertly trained Incident Managers who deal with life-threatening situations on a daily basis.

To learn more about the way in which Peoplesafe is working with facilities managers to support lone worker safety, read our recent article published in Facilities Management Journal: