Protecting Employees Who Work Alone

As an employer, you are responsible for the safety and well-being of your employees. It is not uncommon for safety precautions in the workplace to depend on employees looking out for each other or formalised buddy systems. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers are responsible for managing risks to employees who work alone.

In order to manage the risks of working alone, your organisation must provide ample training, supervision and monitoring of lone employees. It is important to maintain regular communication with these employees and respond promptly to any incidents or concerns. If a lone employee will be working at someone else’s workplace, you should ask that employer about any potential risks or control measures that should be known by your employee.

Some high-risk tasks should never be done by a lone employee, such as:

  • Working in a confined space
  • Working near live electricity conductors
  • Diving operations
  • Working in vehicles carrying explosives
  • Fumigation

When managing risk for lone employees, the following potential issues may be particularly prevalent:

  • Violence—Protect workers from violence by providing them with training in personal safety or violence prevention, and minimising risk factors, such as employees carrying cash or conducting work during late-night or early-morning hours.
  • Stress and mental health—Help lone employees manage their mental health and stress by staying in touch regularly so that managers can recognise signs of stress or mental health issues as soon as possible.
  • Medical conditions—If employees have health conditions, it is important to consider whether they are safe to work alone. Think about the tasks and potential issues that may affect the employee and consult with a medical professional.

Employees who work alone may be more vulnerable to a variety of risk factors that could result in serious health issues or injuries. It is important that your organisation recognises the different dangers and hazards that may affect these employees and takes the necessary steps to provide safety and security.

Case Study: London-based Company Fined £1.1 Million After Fall From Height

A relocation and refurbishment company has been fined £1.1 million after an accident involving a fall from height. Luton Crown Court found Modus Workspace Limited of Greencoat Place, London guilty of breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The incident in question involved an engineer who had been testing a sprinkler system for leaks on an internal roof. The engineer’s extension ladder slipped, causing him to fall nearly 3 metres. The employee suffered severe blood loss, a fractured vertebrae and soft tissue damage. He required a blood transfusion and 14 stitches to his head. An HSE investigation found that reasonably practicable measures had not been taken to prevent a fall from the roof and that Modus Workspace Limited had failed to discharge its duty to ensure those not in their employment were not exposed to risks, such as falling from height. The company has been ordered to pay costs of £68,116.18 in addition to the aforementioned fine.