Why Protect Lone Workers?
Why are lone workers at an increased risk of harm, why should we take steps to protect them, and how can employers ensure their lone workers are safe?
There are an estimated 8 million lone workers in the UK, working in a diverse range of industries from healthcare to construction, facilities management to retail. This number is expected to have increased in recent years due to a surge in the number of people working alone at home.
But why are lone workers at an increased risk of harm, why should we take steps to protect them, and how can employers ensure their lone workers are safe?
Before we answer all these questions and more, we first need to understand the definition of a lone worker...
The definition of a lone worker
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines a lone worker as "someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision". You can find out more about this here: What is a lone worker?
Why do lone workers need protection?
In 2020-21, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 142 workers in Great Britain were killed at work and the Labour Force Survey stated that 441,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury in the same period.
Furthermore, 688,000 incidents of violence at work were reported in 2019-20 (Crime Survey for England and Wales) and a British Crime Survey reported that 150 lone workers are attacked every day. Take a look at our blog: How many lone workers are attacked every day?)
It’s important to note that it’s not just social risks that lone workers face (e.g. violence, abuse and aggression), some face environmental hazards such as working at height or working with machinery.
Whatever the hazards workers face, employers have a duty to include lone working in a thorough Risk Assessment under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and to implement measures to control or minimise lone working risks.
But, however rigorous your risk assessments and health and safety policies and procedures, accidents at work will always happen. Just consider how much worse an accident can be if a worker is on their own, with no colleagues available to assist them or call for help.
The impact of this can be catastrophic for the worker, and their friends, family and colleagues. However, it can also mean significant financial penalties and brand damage for an employer if they haven’t taken the necessary steps to protect their lone workers.
Protecting lone workers makes business sense
Other than giving lone workers peace of mind that they can quickly call for help in an emergency, there are many business benefits of implementing a lone worker solution including:
- Reducing the risk of legal repercussions and fines (£26.9 million in fines were issued to duty holders found guilty of health and safety offences in 2020-21)
- Demonstrating duty of care and a “safety first” approach as part of your Employee Value Proposition
- Protecting your brand reputation (a blow to your reputation can affect your share price, profits, and your ability to obtain credit)
- Attracting and retaining the best staff, and reducing the costs and disruption associated with recruitment
- Reducing insurance premiums
- Proving compliance with important policies and standards
- Supporting your CSR and ESG commitments with a demonstrable investment in colleague safety
- Boosting morale and productivity, and reducing sick days, with a happy and healthy workforce
- Realising financial and operational efficiencies through better visibility of remote workers
- Supporting your business continuity plan by providing a means for incidents to be highlighted, reported and resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.
How should employers protect lone workers?
Some organisations use a buddy system to keep workers safe, but shouldering the responsibility for the safety of a colleague can have a detrimental impact on wellbeing and mental health – especially if an incident were to happen. It can also be extremely costly.
Therefore, many organisations across the UK are choosing to implement lone worker devices or apps across their remote working teams.
These devices or mobile apps give lone workers a way to easily raise a Red Alert in an emergency and discreetly call for help. SoloProtect lone worker alarms and apps will also recognise if the user is incapacitated and will automatically raise a man down alarm.
You can also find more information here: Lone worker protection.