Lone working and the Law

There is no specific law in relation to lone workers but the relevant health and safety legislation includes The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Both offer a balanced message about risk management for lone workers. Guidance from the TUC cautions against assuming that lone workers face the same risks as other employees, and against assuming that they are only exposed to risks of violence.

A standard risk management approach should be taken to lone working, so that there is not a blanket rule that says that lone working would or would not be acceptable in any given situation.

HSE guidance notes that training is particularly important for lone workers as there is less opportunity for them to be guided or supervised by others “in situations of uncertainty”. In this context the TUC guidance refers to dynamic risk assessment and notes that it is “not a substitute for a comprehensive risk assessment but in some cases it is not always possible to identify all hazards”. Crucially, it notes that “it is not an excuse for employers to transfer responsibility to the worker”.

Violence risks are specifically mentioned in the TUC guidance, but only in passing in the HSE guidance. The TUC guidance notes that control measures such as “alarms and walkie-talkies are not a replacement for prevention”

Home working is also specifically referred to in the TUC guidance, which implies that employers should be aware of risks of isolation. It also notes that the employer must do a proper ergonomic assessment of the workplace.

Sources:
Lone working: a guide for safety representatives - TUC date: November 2009
Working alone: health and safety guidance on the risks of lone working date: September 2009

Posted by Maybo on March 1, 2012

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