Top Tips for Small Businesses Employing Lone Workers
Managing director Simon Birchall on how to manage lone workers and insure your business and staff remain protected
With around seven million lone workers in the UK, and this figure looking to rise, it’s important that these employees are adequately protected from any dangers while working alone. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect these workers and could face criminal prosecutions for accidents occurring in working hours if appropriate procedures are not put in place.
With this in mind here’s four ways in which business owners can help to prevent lone worker accidents from happening in the first place…
Carry out a comprehensive risk assessment
In order to properly protect lone workers an employer must first carry out a comprehensive risk assessment which identifies any high-risk activities that they might be involved with.
The main risks posed to lone workers can be divided into three categories:
- Violence and aggression: From both people they encounter inside and outside of their organisation
- Occupational risks: Such as trips or accidents
- Personal wellbeing risks: Such as pre-existing health risks.
A risk assessment should identify any significant risks and detail how these risks can be suitably controlled in order for lone working to continue. Risk assessments help identify whether supervision is needed or whether any backup procedures should be in place.
If a risk assessment shows it is unsafe to work alone, then an employer should under no circumstances allow for a lone worker to continue work and should arrange for suitable help and backup before proceeding.
Provide adequate employee training
To help lone workers avoid any dangerous or compromising situations as best they can, extensive training should be given which covers both prevention and response. Whilst prevention is rooted in identifying potential risks before they happen, response comes in to play after an incident has occurred.
It is important that the findings identified in the risk assessment are explained in detail to the lone worker so that they can fully grasp the risks and the precautions they must take to do their best to avoid them.
Some key questions and topics to cover in employee lone worker training include:
- Why does lone working increase risks?
- What measures can be taken to reduce risks?
- What should be done if things go wrong?
- How employees can best utilise lone worker tracking technology to reduce risks to safety.
Identify the necessary amount of supervision needed
The level of supervision needed for each lone worker employee can differ greatly depending on the requirements of the job. The employer must consider whether the job is high risk or low risk and how capable the worker is at being able to identify and handle health and safety issues.
The level of supervision should also be decided by the findings of the risk assessment. Necessary monitoring procedures should be put in place, as frequent communication between lone worker and management can help to reduce risks. Monitoring procedures include:
- Supervisors observing lone workers that are new to the job to help determine how well they are coping
- Deciding pre-agreed intervals of regular contact between lone worker and supervisor
- Using lone worker technology such as mobile apps and GPS monitoring equipment to trace movements and raise an alarm in the event of an emergency.
Have a robust GPS monitoring system in place
As mentioned, the introduction of lone worker protective technology can help to increase staff welfare. At present there is an abundance of lone worker technology available such as mobile apps and key fob sized safety alarms to help employees feel better protected when working alone.
Many of these apps and technology devices can provide accurate maps of the exact route a lone worker takes on any given day. This technology has the potential to both increase safety and productivity as it allows managers to check the location of staff without having to even contact the person.
By following these steps businesses can do all they can to prevent an accident involving a lone worker to arise. A comprehensive risk assessment, adequate employee training and supervision and the application of lone worker technology can ensure that both employee and employer are properly protected against the risks involved with lone workers.
For more information on employment and hiring staff, check out startups.co.uk’s recruitment section here.
This article was written by Simon Birchall, managing director of management solutions company Timeware