Alone & Lonely

Lone working really came to the forefront of public interest in 1986, with the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh. Suzy was an estate agent working in Fulham, South London. Suzy’s abduction 30 years ago has made for pioneering changes in the way that businesses look after their lone workers.

Suzy attended an appointment to show a client around a property; she never returned from the appointment. She has never been found. She was officially declared dead, presumed murdered in 1994. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust was set up in 1986, 4 months after she went missing, and has played a major role in ensuring a better education of lone working and personal safety in general.

Lone working is classed as an employee who performs an activity that is carried out in isolation from other workers, without any close or direct supervision. In a scenario such as this, a risk assessment is vital.

Alone & Lonely

Lone workers may include those working from home, workers that are working separately from others, workers who work outside normal working hours (e.g. cleaners/security), mobile workers and those in agriculture, forestry or service workers (e.g. doctors, district nurses, estate agents, sales reps, home help, postal workers etc.).

It is estimated that around 6.8 million people in the UK are classed as lone workers. That’s almost 22% of the working population. A survey carried out by the British Crime Association indicates that as many as 150 lone workers are attacked every day. These attacks carry a different level of severity and are not isolated to one industry, sector or job role; they include both physical and verbal attacks. Understanding the risks that can befall lone workers goes some way to ensuring they are safe; it is understanding that those individuals are open to risks that cannot always be managed.

There is no simple formula to remove risk for a lone worker. However, there are many directions that an organisation can take to improve staff safety and their culture and approach to duty of care is vital.

A lone worker is the responsibility of an employer during work hours and the environment that the lone worker is situated has a requirement to be as safe as possible according to section 2 of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HASAW74). A compliant organisation will have a Lone Worker Policy in place and will work with staff to ensure that it is clear and ensure that it is implemented and followed.

An effective lone worker policy should consist of the purpose of the policy, the organisation’s approach to staff safety, the commitments of the employer, the manager’s responsibilities, the procedure for reporting accidents and the following actions, what help and support is available and when the policy will be reviewed. This list is not exhaustive and should be tailored the organisation.

There is no legal requirement indicating that lone working must not happen. However, a great deal depends upon the Risk Assessment undertaken as part of broader duties under HASAW74 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999).

Following pressure on companies to take better care of their staff, many employers have implemented strategies to ensure that lone working becomes safer. A fantastic example can be found at a West Midlands based company, WM Housing Group. They have issued lone working staff with an ID card that incorporates technology to connect the wearer to an Alarm Receiving Centre. The device uses mobile phone technology to call a support line that is open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. The operator is then able to support the lone worker and, if necessary, raise the alarm to the emergency services.

Betting and gaming giant, Ladbrokes, came under fire in 2016 when a lone worker was raped and left for dead by a customer who had lost hundreds of pounds in the shop the previous day. Only three years earlier, Andrew Iacovou was killed by a customer whilst lone working alone at Ladbrokes. Within the last decade, ten incidents had occurred which are deemed as serious; a whistle blower from the company gave evidence in court to suggest that the company had put profits and money saving tactics as a priority over employee safety. The practice – known as ‘single-manning’ has been criticised by staff, MPs and trade unions. This is a controversial practice that Ladbrokes have heavily denied using in their business policies. It only stands to reason that the process of a single manning style approach will make staff feel vulnerable and at risk from both physical and verbal assault.

Alone & Lonely

Lone workers are not just at risk from violence; the consequences of most other hazards are amplified. A risk assessment will indicate risks to the lone worker and how they should be adequately controlled to allow the lone working to continue. Controls could include communications systems, login/log out procedures etc. Risk assessment may show that lone working is unsafe and other arrangements that must be made.

Lone workers should be appropriately trained to understand the risks and controls required when working alone. Employers should set clear limits as to can and cannot be done during periods of lone working.

Promoting a positive health and safety culture is vital within an organisation for employees to meet compliance with policies and legislation. The level of care given to regular employees should not differ from that given to a lone working employee. All employees have the right, according to section 2 of HASAW74, to work in a health and safe environment, so far as is reasonably practicable.

We at BN SHE Consultancy Ltd are dedicated to ensuring that businesses are compliant with health and safety laws and legislation. If you’re unsure about your obligations regarding your lone working

or have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know. or 01981 540 197

Back to news >