Learn more about lone working, government guidelines, employer’s responsibilities, and more.
Published 24 May 2022
Lone working is a labor setup where an employee is operating alone in an isolated area or where other employees cannot see or hear them. It is an arrangement in which supervisors or other colleagues cannot provide direct support since they are not physically present in the specific area. It does not necessarily mean that an employee is physically alone onsite or in a building, but they may be in a separate location from the rest of their team. Lone working is prone to higher risks of exposure to workplace hazards due to lack of assistance and supervision.
Employees who are working by themselves in a specific area or workplace are called lone workers. Some examples of lone workers are those who work in the field, security personnel working on graveyard shifts, electricians who work on light posts, employees working from home, company concierge or messengers, and those who work separately away from their colleagues such as someone doing the inventory audit solely in the stock room of a retail store.
Examples of a Lone Worker
Different states provide various guidelines but they aim for the same goal — to secure the safety of lone workers. According to the British Crime Survey, an estimate of 150 lone workers are physically or verbally attacked every day in the United Kingdom alone. That is why the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) set forth guidelines for employers to protect lone workers.
While for the United States, although there are no other federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules that specifically apply to lone working, requirements of health regulations still apply.
In Australia, employers must monitor the health and safety of their employees, including the assurance of effective communication with workers working remotely or in isolated conditions. This is under Regulation 48 from the Managing the Work Environment and Facilities Code of Practice 2011.
Lone working is a legal form of employment and there is no general legislation that prohibits the employer from letting their employees work alone. However, they must be aware of any specific legislation on lone working in different industries such as supervision in diving operations, construction processes, and others. Here are common hazards associated with lone working and how to prepare for them or avoid them.
Lone workers have a greater risk of hazards as they work alone and have limited access to get help if things go wrong. They are vulnerable and prone to high risks including violence. That is why in the United Kingdom employers are required by the Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (Section 19) to conduct risk assessments to determine whether an employee can work by themselves or a task can be carried out by a single person. All employers should secure the following:
When an employer is establishing safe work arrangements for lone workers, they need to know the standards and laws that may apply to the specific work activity. They must evaluate processes and check if the requirements can be met by a lone worker. Here are some points that need to be addressed when creating lone working arrangements:
Employers may find lone working policies tedious and burdensome since it has to be scrutinized from creation to implementation. Many factors and processes can come into play when organizing policies including conducting risk assessments. The process usually takes time because it involves going through multiple hands for review and completion. Which in turn, opens the whole process to issues like losing track of paperwork or records.
iAuditor by SafetyCulture is a cloud-based inspection app that can be used to replace paper forms. It helps organizations to have everything they need in one place. You can track hazards, risks, control measures, and assign corrective actions while performing risk assessments. Lone working policies are securely saved in the cloud and can be accessed by all parties involved any time, anywhere even if they are offline.
To save you time, we have created ready-to-use lone working templates you can download for free and it is fully customizable, or you can check out our Public Library of free checklist templates that can be used not only by lone workers but by any employee in almost all industries. You also have an option to convert your existing PDF, Word Document, Excel, or PowerPoint files into iAuditor checklists for free up to 3 files.
A lone working policy template is used to guide the management teams in creating arrangements to be discussed with a lone worker. It helps to assess the work set up and agreements between employer and employee including the responsibilities of both parties.
A lone working risk assessment is used by safety officers to classify and evaluate hazards present in the workplace. It addresses many health and safety risks identified in the workplace to ensure the safety of lone workers while performing their tasks and mitigate risks before the occurrence of an incident.
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.
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