Supporting Local Authority Lone Workers

From maintenance staff to child protection workers and park wardens, local authorities have traditionally comprised a wide range of roles that must frequently work alone or out of direct contact with colleagues, at least some of the time. And while each role is unique and comes with its own specific set of risks, the common thread is that working alone places staff at greater risk, just by nature of the fact that they are less able to summon help if and when it is required.

Many of the local authorities that we work with at Peoplesafe have found that departmental risk assessments identify lone working as a concern that must be addressed. As a result of budget cuts and depleted workforces, those that might usually work in small teams or pairs are now having to work alone

Understanding your employer obligations

Every employer has a duty of care to understand the risks placed on their employees – and to take steps to mitigate those risks. Conducting risk assessments is a regular part of the job within every department of a local authority, and it’s important that those risk assessments are revisited frequently, particularly as circumstances and working conditions change.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently provided employers with a timely update to its advice on lone workers, recognising that their circumstances require special consideration. But what are the issues that make this extra attention necessary? Of course it depends on the nature of the role, but within local authorities they tend to fall into two main areas of concern.

Firstly, a threat to personal safety. Those people that work alone with the public are at an increased risk of encountering aggression, and when visiting people’s homes additional risks must be factored in, such as aggressive animals or access to potential weapons. Training staff to conduct dynamic risk assessments can make a big difference to supporting their safety, as can providing them with two-way communication devices that enable them to access emergency support quickly.

The second area is risk of injury or sudden illness. Those roles that require workers to operate alone at height, in enclosed areas, or with potentially hazardous materials or equipment are at increased risk when working alone. Although personal injury is a potential problem in any working environment, minor injuries to someone working alone can quickly become serious – and serious injuries can become life threatening – simply because there is no one nearby to help. Similarly, lone workers with pre-existing medical conditions should be in regular contact with a colleague or manager in case they have a medical episode and there isn’t anyone close by to call for an ambulance.

Leading by example

Local authorities are in a unique position when it comes to worker safety: their responsibilities include working closely with the HSE to enforce health and safety regulations within their community, under the National Local Authority Enforcement Code. It is therefore crucial that local authorities lead by example by adopting best practice measures to protect their own workforces.

Written policies that are easy to access, well communicated and straightforward to interpret are a vital element of making sure that employees are able to manage risk appropriately. Personal safety devices can prove invaluable; helping teams to stay in touch, facilitating ‘safe and well’ checks and giving employees a way to call for help quickly and easily should they need to.

Beyond the device itself, it’s important to understand the functionality and service provision surrounding that device. For instance, Peoplesafe’s devices come equipped with What3Words functionality, so that the location of the device (and its user) can be identified more accurately than ever. In addition, the Incident Managers that work in our Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) are specially trained to manage emergency situations sensitively, whether that’s talking a worker through the necessary steps to diffuse an aggressive encounter or listening carefully and discreetly to determine the best course of action.

To learn more about the way in which Peoplesafe is working with local authorities to support lone worker safety, read our recent article published in Local Government News:

Traffic warden at work

Peoplesafe and Local Authorities

Read how we are working with councils to protect their lone workers

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