By Craig Swallow, Managing Director, Connexion2 Limited
According to the Health & Safety Executive lone workers are “those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. The work in a wide range of professions within the industrial sector e.g. in warehouses, factories, research establishments and as night security personnel.
Employers have responsibilities for the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees and the health and safety of those affected by the work e.g. contractors and self-employed people who companies may engage. These responsibilities cannot be transferred to people who work alone. The Health and Safety Executive says: “It is the employer’s duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risk where necessary.”
A lone worker should not be at more risk than any other employee and precautions should be put into place to account for normal work and foreseeable emergencies such as illness, accidents and workplace violence.
Employers should identify potential risk such as:
•Does the workplace present a special risk to the lone worker
•Is there risk of violence
•Are women staff especially at risk
•Can the lone worker summon help in the event of an emergency
Lone Workers At Risk From Violence Or Accidents
Those working alone include night security staff and warehouse employees who may be at risk of violence or an accident. The provision of devices designed to raise the alarm in the event of an emergency need to be provided to employees. The devices need to be easily operable and be connected to a call centre or to someone that can send immediate help.
Lone workers by definition are more vulnerable to accident and aggression than most employees and therefore it is vitally important that their employers develop long-term strategies in order to protect their safety. Risk assessment should help decide the right level of supervision, training and protective equipment that needs to be employed.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSW) require employers to conduct a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of the risks to which employees are subjected to whilst they are at work. Any employer who has either failed to recognise a foreseeable risk or address a significant potential risk is likely to have been negligent in failing to give proper consideration to the potential risks faced by employees.
The MHSW Regulations generally oblige an employer to assess the risks of employees and make arrangements for their health and safety by effective:
The risks covered should, “where appropriate, include the need to protect employees from exposure to reasonably foreseeable violence”. The HSE estimates that it costs £17-19,000, on average, just to investigate a physical assault. It can take a lot less to prevent one.
Mobile Phones Are Not A Quick Fix Solution
Increasing health and safety legislation is placing considerable pressure on employers who may be tempted to provide a quick fix in the way of a mobile phone. However, should a lone worker find themselves in a dangerous situation and attempt to use a mobile phone to summon help, they may find the aggressor becoming even more agitated which could exacerbate the situation and lead to aggression and even violence. Using a mobile phone in such a situation is often futile as it can be easily and quickly knocked to the ground. Similarly, if a lone worker is incapacitated and unable to reach a phone he will be unable to summon help.
Mobile phones neither protect nor provide a means of notifying an employer when a lone worker is in difficulty. With problems of violence against employees in the building industry increasing year on year, the electronics industry has been under pressure to develop a means of both capturing evidence of abuse and safeguarding personnel from assault.
Identicom looks like a normal ID holder, but is equipped with mobile phone technology. Identicom not only enables the wearer to raise an alarm if threatened, but also allows a third party to listen to what is happening, whatever the distance, and summon help in an emergency. The device can also support the pinpointing of a worker’s location using GSM/LBS technology.
The device includes a lanyard attachment that enables it to be worn around the neck as a standard ID and hides a ‘rip alarm’ function, which is triggered if the unit is forcibly removed from the wearer. Identicom is flexible enough to be configured in a number of ways, thereby allowing an employer to adopt the device without the need to significantly change or alter current working practices.
With the right long-term policies and procedures in place and fully operational, companies and lone workers can be confident that every precaution is being taken to ensure their safety. This will benefit the health and well being of both the employees and the organisation. Ends
Connexion2 Ltd., North Anston Business Centre, Dinnington, Sheffield S25 4JJ Tel: 01909 550368 Fax: 01909 550888 web: www.connexion2.com