Lone worker hazards are present in most workplaces but identifying these can be difficult for those new to lone worker policies and procedures. Many health and safety managers face the challenge of ensuring all lone workers are as equally protected in the workplace as every other member of staff. By establishing a specific policy for lone workers, risks resulting from lone worker hazards can be minimised, and all staff can feel reassured at work.
What Exactly Is A Lone Worker Policy?
Like many other policies that are used in other areas of a business, a lone worker policy is generally a physical document that all staff can refer to and adhere to. Creating a lone worker policy is not as simple as copying a policy from another business and applying it to your business. This is an irresponsible way to create a health and safety policy of this nature, it is essential that the policy is tailored to your business. Each organisation (although it may operate similarly to another), will face different challenges in terms of lone worker protection and lone worker hazards.
Why A Lone Worker Policy Is Important?
Although it is not a legal requirement, having a lone worker policy in place is beneficial for both business, and staff relations. If staff feel safe at work, then productivity is likely to be higher. In addition to this, although having a policy is not a legal requirement, if a lone worker sustains a serious injury due to negligence, this can have serious legal consequences. Therefore, it is usually best to incorporate a policy specific to lone workers into health and safety plans. A policy will also create guidelines for lone workers and managers to follow, in order to minimise any unnecessary risks. This means that staff will feel safer and reassured in the fact that if an accident was to occur, every member of the team would know how to respond.
Identifying Lone Worker Hazards
The identification of lone worker hazards is key in the drafting of a strong lone worker policy. The hazards that lone workers face will be different in each workplace, therefore risk assessments are of great importance. There are a number of areas that may be applicable to your business operations:
Manual handling is a safety concern for a number of businesses. The correct handling of heavy items is essential, particularly for those working alone. When lifting heavy objects, there are a number of issues that may occur. This can include injuries sustained from incorrect lifting practices, or from falling objects. One of the best ways to minimise the risk is to ensure that all staff members are correctly trained in manual handling, and if working alone, have the ability to contact other staff members or managers when in need of assistance.
Exposure to violence can be an issue in a number of different industries. For example, all businesses are vulnerable to break-ins at night, and violence can easily occur as a result of an altercation with an intruder. In addition to this, those that work with in the care industry or with vulnerable people may be at risk of violence from service users. Therefore, it is a good idea to make sure that all staff have both the training to protect themselves safely in these instances, and the ability to call for help if necessary. Teachers are also at risk of violence from students, with violence against teachers becoming a significant area of concern for those in the industry.
Any lone worker that is required to operate any type of machinery, is exposed to potential injury. This can include injury from moving parts, electric shocks, or becoming trapped inside lift shafts, or behind doors that are electronically operated. Assessing the risks that machinery poses to employees in your business will make creating a tailored policy a lot simpler. There can often be factors that many people miss in regard to machinery, so a thorough risk assessment is essential.
Areas for Consideration When Drafting the Policy
Once the lone worker hazards that apply to your business have been identified, it is then important to consider the practices you will apply to prevent any injuries relating to them. There are a number of ways to protect workers against hazards. Regular risk assessments will allow you to identify any new hazards, or areas that may be in need of review. Many businesses use a combination of techniques to protect their lone workers, including:
Monitoring and Alerting
Monitoring staff members is an essential part of lone worker management. This means that lone workers should be required to sign in and out at the beginning and end of the day and be continually monitored while undertaking any lone worker duties. A monitoring and alerting system is generally the best method of ensuring that staff are safe at all times. This may include using lone worker safety devices. Lone worker safety devices are a reliable way of monitoring staff and provides users with a means to call or alert colleagues when there is an incident and assistance is required.
Training is paramount in the smooth operation of any business. This is particularly true when it comes to training relating to health and safety. It is important that all staff members are trained sufficiently in the operation of any equipment they will be using, how to handle dangerous substances, or any other specialist training specific to your business. Training is also a key part of ensuring all staff know what to do in the event of an emergency. Reporting an incident (or calling for help) usually follows a certain process, to ensure that emergencies are responded to as quickly as possible and that sufficient assistance is offered. This means that all staff members must know exactly how to operate any communication devices or lone worker devices that they are required to carry. Training in other security devices like alarm systems, or locks should be considered.
Audits are a good way of identifying any issues with lone worker procedures. Regular auditing can help managers to find areas of concern in regard to response time, or inadequate training of staff.