The Health and Safety Executive defines lone working as the practice of an employee carrying out tasks without close supervision or assistance. A lone worker is not necessarily alone when performing their duties; it just means he is in a location away from other team members and the manager or supervisor. When an employee is out of sight and earshot, the risks increase because it reduces the response and reaction time of the people around. In fact, it may be necessary for instances where only one worker can fulfil certain duties. The manufacturing sector has various fields where companies have to use lone workers. For example, the maintenance of a production machine may only be entrusted to one technician. However, employers must meet certain standards of lone worker safety in tandem with the kind of work involved. Telecommunication systems and alarms are part of the safety measures that manufacturing enterprises have to invest in. A communication system can help a lone worker contact the right people for help in the event of an accident. Lone worker systems are also equipped with alarms that send out alerts when an employee who is in danger activates it.
Lone Worker Incident
One example of a company failing to execute proper lone working protection measures involves South West Water. Robert Geach was assigned to the Falmouth Waste Water Treatment Works to do some work on its sand filtration system. The 54-year old fell through a hole to his death as he was trying to unblock a filter. This incident occurred in December 2013, but the Truro Crown Court delivered its sentencing on April 2017. South West Water got a fine of £1.8million and costs of £41,607.71. Mr Geach had a lone safety system, which he activated but it wasn't until 90 minutes later that someone came to check up on him in, but it was too late. Besides the poor response, the Health and Safety Executive, after a thorough investigation, established that the treatment plant had a risk of drowning that the company did not identify. According to an HSE inspector, reducing the size of the hatch that provided access to the filters would have prevented such an incident. Water treatment plants are not limited to water companies; some manufacturing enterprises also have these facilities as part of their production processes. Pharmaceuticals and food & beverage companies that use water treatment plants can relate to such a case of a lone working accident. Another incident that manufacturing companies can learn from is this one, which involved a lone worker trying to move A CNC milling machine without help. Unfortunately, he died when the machine fell and crushed him underneath it.
Lone Working Risks in Manufacturing
Whether manufacturing pharmaceuticals, food or vehicles, production processes involve a lot of work that poses different types of hazards to workers. Sometimes employees have to handle numerous tasks and heavy equipment, which comes with particular physical challenges. It is why manufacturing is one of the leading industries with high workplace accidents. HSE reported that 10% of work-related deaths in the British workforce that occurred between 2013 and 2014 were from manufacturing. Disability cases are also prevalent in the manufacturing industry. Some work settings such as chemical plants present more dangers than others. The threat of chemical spills and exposure adds to the urgency of an effective lone worker safety policy. A good number of accidents in manufacturing companies involve cumbersome machinery that employees need for their jobs. Lone workers in such instances may be operating the devices or doing maintenance. Employers must ensure that anyone working alone with heavy equipment has proper protection.
Protecting Lone Workers
Firstly, an employer has to identify all the lone workers in the company before instituting a policy to safeguard their health and safety. The point of this is to know which safety standards are most suitable for different employees who work alone. Managers are not always aware of everyone in the company who is not working close to a team. Note that even the contractors who come to your manufacturing plant for regular machine upkeep or electrical testing fall into this category. It is also necessary to identify any aspect that may increase the vulnerability of an employee when working alone. Perhaps the lone worker is a trainee or has some level of disability.
After pinpointing your lone working employees then you can conduct the risk assessment, what danger does each worker have to face? Look at the hazards that include the physical elements such as petrochemical products or machinery that can result in harm. Then, identify the risk- the probability of an individual getting hurt by the hazards. A risk assessment will make it less complicated to put in place measures that protect everyone working in the company. Additionally, a risk assessment will help you discover areas that may not comply with worker health and safety regulations. Noncompliance can cost an enterprise a lot of money, not to mention, ruin its reputation, so you have to avoid that. The HSE has a simple step-by-step method of how you can assess the safety risks at a workplace.
Next is the lone worker safety policy, which takes into account the identified risks. Safety policies are critical in promoting positive work culture where employees know how to do their part. Every staff member should get a copy of the policy; not just the lone workers. Even the individuals who don't operate alone should know how to respond in case a lone worker raises the alarm. A lone working policy should include the use of the latest technology in controlling workplace risks. Manufacturing plants can be fitted with telecommunication systems to improve responses to incidents. Managers must also provide training to all their employees on how to implement the policy. Lone workers should have knowledge of the specific measures to follow in case of an incident.
Employees in the manufacturing industry face significant hazards and risks, which are more dangerous for people working alone. Companies should guarantee that there is an effective policy for lone workers and the right system to ensure the safety of everyone. For team or health and safety managers who need help with their lone working systems, request a free consultation here or click the button below!