Lone Worker Issues I
Lone workers are those who work by themselves, without close or direct supervision. They may include persons working in fixed establishments with one person, (e.g. shops, petrol stations), agricultural or forestry workers. They may include those working outside normal hours, such as security personnel and cleaners. They may include many service workers, such as postal workers, social workers, estate agents, engineers, architects, and repair crew.
Particular risks arise for employees working alone or remotely, which must be considered and addressed. An employer must identify the hazards and risks affecting those employed alone at a place of work, or working in isolation at a remote location. They must thereafter take into account, reduce and eliminate where possible, the particular risks, if any, affecting the lone worker.
Lone Worker Issues II
Hazards potentially encountered by person who work alone may include sudden illness and the possibility of accidents and emergencies without first aid. These risks apply in particular to categories of employees such as remote workers, drivers, persons working in shops, repair crew, security staff, persons engaged in agriculture and forestry.
Violence from members of the public is a particular risk for worker who work alone, but who come into contact with members of the public. This is a particular risk for security personnel, social workers, estate agents, engineers, architects, those who work in certain leisure and recreational fields and others who meet clients and customers alone.
Risk Assessment I
The employer must consider the special factors to be considered for lone workers working at a remote location or/and in isolation. The HSA indicate that for a lone worker at a remote location, the following factors must be considered:
- how long should the work take and how frequently should the worker report in;
- has the worker a safe means of travel to and from the location, especially out of normal hours?;
- is there access to adequate rest, hygiene, refreshment, welfare and first aid facilities?;
- can emergency services approach the location without hindrance?;
- procedures for responding to ‘worst-case scenario
Risk Assessment II
The employer should consider whether
- there a safe way in and a way out for one person;
- any temporary access equipment that is necessary, such as portable ladders or trestles, can be safely handled by one person;
- all the plant, substances and goods involved in the work can be safely handled by one person;
- the work involves lifting objects too large for one person or whether more than one person is needed to operate essential controls for the safe running of equipment;
- there is a risk of violence;
- women are especially at risk if they work alone;
- young workers are especially at risk if they work alone;
- the person is medically fit and suitable to work alone.
It should be checked whether lone workers have a medical condition which may make them unsuitable for working alone. Medical advice may be necessary. The employer must consider both routine work and foreseeable emergencies, which may impose additional physical and mental burdens on the individual.
Steps Required on foot of Assessment
Lone workers should not be at more risk than other employees. If the risk assessment shows that it is not possible to do work safely by persons working alone, arrangements must be made to deal with the risks which may arise. Risks assessed must be met with measures which deal with, eliminate or minimise them. This may require extra risk control measures.
Precautions should take account of normal work and foreseeable emergencies, e.g. fire, equipment failure, illness, and accidents. Lone workers should be capable of responding correctly to emergencies. Emergency procedures should be established and employees trained in them.
Information about emergency procedures and danger areas should be given to lone workers who visit a third party’s premises.Where a lone worker is working at another employer’s workplace, that employer should inform the lone worker’s employer of any risks and the control measures to be taken. This should assist the lone worker’s employer to assess the risks.
Lone workers should have access to adequate first-aid facilities. Mobile workers should carry a first-aid kit suitable for treating minor injuries. The risk assessment may indicate that lone workers need training in first aid.
Possible Measures to Lone Worker Mitigate Risks
Possible measures may include
- periodic checks;
- communications, warning devices, panic buttons, automatic warning devices, automatic distress message systems;
- health surveillance;
- standard operating procedures;
- instruction and training in proper procedures, e.g. code words for potentially violent situations when combined with mobile phone communication;
- supervision and communication;
- use of Personal Protective Equipment;
- first-aid kits and training;
- locking and securing the place of work
- implementing an appropriate incident reporting procedure;
- provision of counselling.
Arrangements for providing help or backup should be put in place.
Lone Worker’s Duties
Lone workers themselves have a responsibility to help their employer fulfil their duties. The HSA indicate that they should
- take reasonable care to look after their own safety and health;
- safeguard the safety and health of other people affected by their work;
- co-operate with their employer’s safety and health procedures;
- use tools and other equipment properly, in accordance with any relevant safety instructions and training they have been given;
- not misuse equipment provided for their safety and health;
- report all accidents, injuries, near-misses and other dangerous occurrences.
Supervision of Lone Workers
The employer must consider the issue of supervision. Although lone workers cannot be subject to constant supervision, it is still an employer’s duty to ensure their safety and health at work. Supervision can help to ensure that employees understand the risks associated with their work and that the necessary safety precautions are carried out. Supervisors can provide guidance in situations of uncertainty.
Supervision of safety and health can often be carried out when checking the progress and quality of the work. It may take the form of periodic site visits combined with discussions in which health and safety issues are raised.
The extent of supervision required depends on the risks involved and the ability of the lone worker to identify and handle safety and health issues. Employees new to a job, undergoing training, doing a job which presents special risks, or dealing with new situations may need to be accompanied at first.
The level of supervision should be based on the findings of the risk assessment. The higher the risk, the greater the level of supervision required. It should not be left to individuals to decide whether they require assistance.
Training of Lone Workers
Training is particularly important where there is limited supervision, to control, guide and help in situations of uncertainty. Training may be critical to avoid panic reactions in unusual situations. Lone workers need to be sufficiently experienced and to understand the risks and precautions fully.
Employers should set the limits to what can and cannot be done while working alone. They should ensure employees are competent to deal with circumstances that are new, unusual or beyond the scope of training, e.g. when to stop work and seek advice from a supervisor and how to handle aggression.
Employers’ duties in relation to health, safety, and welfare apply to home offices and other work outside the conventional workplace, office or place of employment. The employer has a duty to secure in in so far as practicable, the health safety and welfare of such employees. Employees must co-operate in the same manner as in the workplace.
The employer’ s obligations cover the provision of supervision, education and training and the implementation of sufficient control measures to protect the homeworker. The employer may be liable for certain risk of liability for accident or injury of a homeworker as for any other employee. The limits of liability will be determined by the law of tort. Appropriate insurance should be carried.
The Health and Safety Authority has published unofficial codes in relation to mobile workers and remote workers working over IT. The employer should carry out a risk assessment in relation to the work environment. This includes home workers and others working at places outside the workplace.
Risk Assessment of Home Work
The employer should carry out a risk assessment of the home work environment. The relevant worker should be involved. The results must be communicated and understood. As conditions change, the risk assessment may need to be updated.
Particular care is recommended in respect of VDU safety reporting of incidents, accidents, maintenance, lighting, heat and ventilation, fire safety, furniture, electrical safety, social isolation and the working time legislation.
The employer should identify specific physical and psychological dangers. Dangers may include electrical issues including overheating, fire safety, adequacy of furniture, issues regarding screens, workplace VDU safety, ergonomic issues in terms of seating, lighting, heating, and ventilation, furniture and layout.
There is a code of practice protecting domestic workers, which has been made under the Industrial Relations Act. They have same employment rights as other employees. The employer must provide a written statement of terms and conditions of employment. This should include the list of duties to be provided.
The employee must be treated with dignity and privacy if required to live in the home. He or she must be provided with a separate, secure room with a bed. If they are required to share, this should be agreed in advance. Employers must not withhold personal documentation, including passports, bank accounts, etc. They must facilitate the employee in the free exercise of personal pursuits.
References and Sources
This article reproduced in part extracts from the HSA Guidance on lone workers.
Safety, Health and Welfare and at Work Law in Ireland 2nd Ed 2008 Byrne Ch 25
Safety & Health Acts Consolidated & Annotated 2013 Byrne
Health, Safety & Welfare Law in Ireland 2012 Kinsella
Health & Safety: Law and practice 2007 Shannon
Health & Safety at Work 1998 Stranks
The Health and Safety Authority www.hsa.ie
Health and Safety Executive (UK) www.hse.gov.uk
Health and safety at work, 2017 29th edition Author BAMBER, L.,
Corporate liability: work related deaths and criminal prosecutions 3rd ed. Author FORLIN, G.
Health and safety at work: European and comparative perspective Author ALES, E., ed.
Health and Safety Law 5th Ed 2005 Stranks
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 370 of 2016)
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 70 of 2016)
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 36 of 2016)
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 445 of 2012)
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 176 of 2010)
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 732 of 2007)
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007)