What is a lone working policy and do you need one?
Not everyone who works at your company is a part of your team, so to speak.
Some people have roles that require them to work alone. Some people need to work alone. Some people prefer working alone.
It’s becoming more common. 22% of workers in the United Kingdom are considered lone workers.
That’s between a fifth and a quarter of your employees who are working in isolation. What steps are you taking to protect them?
Having a lone working policy is a lifeline for your employees who work in isolation. If something happens, if they need support, or if they’re dealing with an incident or an emergency, your lone working policy is what safeguards them.
I’ve had a hand in helping guide the culture of numerous small businesses over the years, and helping draft policies that reflect them. Charlie doesn’t have that many lone workers, but it’s something I see a lot in the companies we work with.
I hope this post offers some guidance on how to create a lone working policy that serves the interests and needs of your lone workers so they can get support when they need it.
The importance of a lone working policy
Lone workers are usually subject to less scrutiny and supervision than they would otherwise. Having a lone working policy means you can prevent accidents before they happen, and that you can act swiftly when they do.
Not having a lone working policy can result in some troublesome legal consequences. More importantly, though, the absence of a lone working policy could put your employees at risk. A well-made lone-working policy could save your employees from injury, or even save lives.
A lone working policy is also a reflection of your business culture. It signals that your business has integrity and values the wellbeing of your employees.
Why is this relevant for small businesses?
Most small businesses lack the resources of a dedicated HR department. Sometimes they’ll have a dedicated HR person, but often it’ll just be the CEO or the founder doing that.
The lone working policy is a blueprint for the safety of your employees. That’s especially true if team members wear different hats and take on different responsibilities.
Imagine a delivery driver, getting around busy streets on their customer service route. Imagine a customer service agent working from home. Imagine contractors who operate independently. A lone working policy protects all of these people from the situations they may find themselves in.
Lone worker UK legislation
Certain protections exist in the United Kingdom that protect the growing number of lone workers who operate in UK businesses.
Here are some of the ones you’ll be wanting to know about:
1. Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: This law lays out the general duties of employers when it comes to ensuring the safety of their employees, including lone workers.
2. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: This act requires you to conduct periodic risk assessments at your company, including those involving lone work scenarios.
3. Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007: This holds you liable for work-related deaths, including those of your lone workers.
4. Health & Safety Offences Act 2008: This increases the penalties and fines you incur for non-compliance for health and safety laws and regulations.
Identifying lone workers in your organisation
Lone work is a bit of a unique beast. They occur in very specialized or different circumstances.
They could be field workers working under harsh environments, remote workers based out of a home office, security personnel who work graveyard shifts, or inventory auditors who work in the isolated parts of a facility you own, such as stock rooms.
These employees face challenges you can’t always anticipate.
Inventory auditors work in the dead of the night when no one is around. If a crate or a piece of machinery falls on them, there’s no one around to help.
Even remote workers based out of the safety of a home office have ergonomic challenges like back support and carpal tunnel from not having access to office equipment.
The risks your lone workers face are as unique as the roles themselves.
Physical hazards are the obvious concern here. Things like navigating a construction site where lone workers have to watch for falling objects or trip hazards in a warehouse room.
Even the psychological impact of lone work can take its toll on you. Without having a team to back you up, the mental stress can really build up over time, affecting your employees' well-being and performance.
Creating your lone working policy
One of the first procedural steps you’ll take when you make your lone work policy is to do a risk assessment. You’ll want to identify the hazards that could put your lone workers at risk.
Knowing what the risks are is the first step in solving for them. It will give you the full and complete picture of what your lone workers are dealing with.
Here are the steps you’ll want to take:
1. Identify potential hazards: Walk through the tasks that your lone workers do one by one. Look around for anything that can cause harm, from dangerous machinery or anything that could make them slip and fall.
2. Determine who might be harmed and how: Think from the perspective of whoever is performing the task. How might their work environment make them vulnerable?
3. Evaluate risks and decide on precautions: Know that you know what the risks are, take stock of how serious they are. How likely are they to hurt your lone workers? Then take steps to eliminate these risks.
4. Record findings and implement them: Document anything you find and any action items you plan on making. This is both a compliance requirement and a practical tool to guide your safety efforts.
5. Review and update as necessary: Regularly review your risk assessment and make sure your policy remains relevant and effective.
Charlie has a lone working policy template you can check out here below. Hopefully, it can serve as the basis for the one you’ll make at your own company.
Lone working policy template
Policy Statement: [Company Name] is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all employees, including those who work alone. This policy outlines our approach to mitigating risks and providing support for lone workers to maintain a safe working environment.
1. Risk Assessment and Mitigation: a. Conduct a thorough risk assessment for all job roles that may involve lone working. b. Identify potential hazards and take steps to minimize or eliminate them. c. Provide appropriate training and equipment to address identified risks.
2. Communication: a. Ensure that all lone workers have a reliable means of communication with colleagues, supervisors, or emergency services. b. Lone workers should carry a fully charged mobile phone, two-way radio, or another approved communication device at all times.
3. Check-In Procedures: a. Establish regular check-in procedures based on the nature of the work and the assessed risks. b. Lone workers should report their status or location at specified intervals to their supervisor or designated contact person.
4. Emergency Response: a. Define clear procedures for lone workers to follow in case of emergencies, accidents, or incidents. b. Provide instructions on how to request assistance and what to do while waiting for help.
5. Training and Education: a. Provide comprehensive training for lone workers on safety procedures, risk management, conflict resolution, and any specific skills or equipment they may need. b. Ensure that lone workers are competent in using communication devices and emergency protocols.
6. Health and Well-being: a. Promote the physical and mental health of lone workers. b. Provide access to relevant resources, such as counseling or support services.
7. Reporting Incidents: a. Encourage all lone workers to promptly report any incidents, near misses, or concerns related to their work environment. b. Establish a reporting system that allows for anonymous reporting if desired.
8. Supervision and Support: a. Implement regular site visits, remote monitoring, or supervisor support for lone workers as appropriate. b. Ensure that supervisors are trained to provide guidance and assistance to lone workers.
9. Review and Update: a. Periodically review and update this policy to reflect changes in work practices, technology, regulations, and emerging risks. b. Ensure that all lone workers are aware of and understand the policy.
10. Compliance: a. Ensure that all employees are aware of this policy and comply with its requirements. b. Non-compliance may result in disciplinary actions.
[Organization Name] is dedicated to the safety and security of all employees, and we will continually assess and improve this lone working policy to protect those who work alone.
Date of Policy: [Insert Date]
Policy Owner: [Insert Responsible Department/Person]
Remember that this template should be customised to fit your organisation's specific needs, and you should consult with legal and safety experts to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
Implementing and reviewing the policy
Executing your lone work policy is the most important part of creating it. When you have your lone work policy drafted, it’s then time to get those guidelines off the page and build them into your core business processes.
Here are some ways you can do that:
- Employee training: Get everyone on your team on the same page with mandatory training sessions, and educate your team on the new policy
- Supervisor training: Put special training sessions in place for the people overseeing and managing your lone workers
Your lone work policy is an organic and changing document. You should change it as the laws around lone work change with regular reviews and audits.
Changes in legislation: Stay in tune with changes to the law in the UK and make sure you stay on top of them so your lone work policy stays compliant.
Technological advancements: The nature of work is changing as new technologies emerge and evolve. Learn your way around advanced communication tools and safety apps.
Your lone workers don’t have to be alone
Lone work is an area not many small business owners are acquainted with.
Charlie offers HR advice services that can help you make the process simple and make your workplace safer. I or another HR advisor would only be too happy to assist you in making your own lone work policy.
Don’t keep your lone workers in the dark. Book a free call with a Charlie advisor today.