Q: Should employees work alone?
A: From time to time organisations face situations where employees potentially need to work alone. QSC’s Adam Willis explores the guidance available to employers in these circumstances.
“As I understand it, there are no absolute restrictions on working alone, but in all cases a risk assessment should be completed, and then appropriate legislation and guidance followed to inform the decision on whether it is safe for that worker to carry out their duties.
There are two main pieces of legislation that will apply:
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: Section 2 sets out a duty of care on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees whilst they are at work.
The Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999: Regulation 3 states that every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of:
- their employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
- of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.
At QSC, we often talk about having a common sense approach to safety, and never is it more relevant than with lone workers.
Completing a comprehensive risk assessment of the job role will help identify hazards of the work, assess risks and influence the measures that are then put in place to avoid or control the risks.
The role may be deemed safe, if appropriate instruction, training, supervision, protective equipment etc are given to the employee and regular reviews undertaken.
Equally though it is important to stand by the findings of the risk assessment, and if it is clear work cannot be carried out safely, by a lone worker, alternative arrangements need to be implemented.
The HSE have produced a leaflet on this subject which I encourage everyone with lone workers, or considering lone workers, to read.
The publication, amongst other things, offers some points to identify such as:
- Does the workplace present a special risk to the lone worker?
- Is there a safe way in and out for one person?
- Can any temporary access equipment which is necessary, such as portable ladders or trestles, be safely handled by one person?
- Can all the plant, substances and goods involved in the work be safely handled by one person?
- Consider whether 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.
- Is there a risk of violence?
To read a copy of the HSE’s Working Alone leaflet click here. For support completing comprehensive risk assessments talk to QSC.