No man is an island and most of us assume that this is true both literally and figuratively. But there are times when a single worker is more than enough to hold charge – all alone! But employers need to be totally sure that this lone worker is safe and will not come to harm from any external or internal causes, they need to put the right processes and safeguards in place. Even those who are self-employed would be well-advised to adopt the same and ensure their own safety.
We have discussed how employers are not only responsible for the safety of their employees but that of their contractors, customers and visitors. This responsibility cannot devolve to anyone else, not even to the worker who is at risk. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974; and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 do not make working alone illegal or consider it unsafe but require employers to evaluate all possible risks and to mitigate them through overt measures beforehand as a duty. It is important for employers to know all the legal standards with regard to deploying lone workers and to consider aspects like the ability of one person to handle all the equipment without a possible hazards, safe entry and exit points, and possibility of violence in the area of operation, the worker’s communication skills, state of general health, possible medical condition, and physical and mental readiness to handle possible emergencies when alone.
The employees must follow the safety measures laid down by the employer and take reasonable care of themselves as well as the contractors, customers and visitors they may receive in their line of duty.
Setting the Processes:
The potential hazards at the lonely workplace will need to be assessed and recorded by the employer, through evaluations conducted involving the staff or their representatives. This assessment needs to be periodically reviewed or as and when any changes to the working practice take place. Worker must be instructed and trained, supervised and issued with protective equipment. When a contractor is required to work alone, the client should inform the supplier of the risks involved and the measures put in place to mitigate them in a detailed manner.
It is important to gain a clear and complete picture of the worker’s health and where necessary, to test the worker on the task in real time; if it could prevent a claustrophobic worker from going underwater alone in a manned submersible vehicle. If the perception of potential danger is too high or safety cannot be assured, it may be a good idea to review the proposal to post lone workers and build in some help or back-up into the plan. Some examples of circumstances which require a back-up would include working with electricity or in high risk situations like work with explosives or under water.
Training & Supervision:
The employee needs to be trained to avoid crossing the limits set, seek advice without fail in unusual circumstances, and take every possible precaution. The very definition of lone worker rules out constant supervision, but an employer needs to put supervision in place in the form of remote contact through radio/mobile/phone or emails and periodic visits to make sure that the worker reported to or returned from work, understands the risks and takes all the required precautions and to provide guidance in a crunch. Automatic security systems may be provided to trigger off an alarm.
Many employers provide training in first aid and provide a kit to their lone workers. Other measures would obviously depend upon the situation and risk-perceptions surrounding the task on which the worker is engaged.
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