If a worker performs an activity that is carried out alone, in isolation or in a remote location, without close or direct supervision, this is commonly referred to as lone working.
Lone working can increase the health and safety risks of any job. Workers may be isolated from support and assistance because of where or when they’re working, or the nature of the work they are doing.
While working alongside your team may not be an option, looking out for your workers should be a top priority.
Lone working includes:
- Traveling alone as part of the job
- Traveling long distances
- Working in remote or isolated locations
- Working unsupervised for an extended period of time – this includes in a separate area away from other workers on larger sites.
- Working late night or shift work
If this sounds like your workforce, then it’s important you minimise the risks associated with lone working. This can be achieved by effective planning and consultation with your lone workers.
Identify the hazards and understand the risks
- Have a look at your site/s to determine when work may be undertaken alone, in isolation or in remote locations.
- Think about the specific tasks / activities that may be undertaken
- Consider what special work considerations may occur e.g. irregular work, breakdown and emergency work that may result in lone working
- How long and what time of day will lone working take place, considering factors such as fatigue and focus
- Have a think about what types of incidents could occur and the access to emergency services
- Are there medical conditions and/or restrictions to the worker/s
- Consider the risks to mental health due to lone working
- Think about dangerous conditions, environmental impacts and other contributing factors that may make the work more hazardous
Agree on suitable control measures
We have put together some recommendations for you to consider, in consultation with your team, when looking at ways to ensure workers can perform their job safely:
- Try and eliminate the need for lone work in the first place. Identify tasks that don’t need to be conducted alone or in isolation. Look at frequency, duration, time of day and look at suitable ways that may make it possible to have supervision or a co-worker.
- Provide information and instruction, such as safe work procedures, on how to perform a task safely whilst lone working
- Ensure workers are trained and competent in the task being completed (not an apprentice or inexperienced worker).
- Agree on a way to regularly check in on your lone workers. Ensure it’s discussed and agreed to prior to the work commencing. This could be a simple phone call, group messages or video calls at agreed intervals. Don’t underestimate the power of human interaction in these times.
- Make sure you arrange regular catch-ups with lone workers by keeping the lines of communication open with everyone. Just because they aren’t next to you on-site, doesn’t mean they should be less informed. Depending on the duration and work involved, consider getting them to check in virtually to a toolbox meeting for example so they still receive team updates and can feel connected.
- Establish limits / restrictions to work activities e.g. what tasks are prohibited from being authorised to perform – like no high risk construction work will be performed by lone workers.
- Provide First Aid training, first aid kit, correct tools/equipment and PPE to lone worker/s. If a fire extinguisher needs to be made available, check that it has been inspected within the last 6 months.
- Emergencies can be more serious if there’s no one around to assist, give first aid or call for help. Ensure emergency protocols are established, such as creating an emergency plan, and that it is suitable considering the types of emergencies which may arise. Determine how the worker/s can raise the alarm / alert someone e.g. providing duress alarms or alert systems so workers can call for emergency assistance or need to discreetly raise an alarm. Two way radios and mobile phones may also be considered.
- Establish security procedures to protect workers from violence or other factors, where applicable
- Look at GPS or location trackers for those working in isolated or remote locations.
Being proactive and prepared will help you to better manage the risks associated with lone working. The biggest tip we can give you is to look out for your team as if they were still with you on-site, or in the office.