Loneworkers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. The definition is very loose, because anyone can be a loneworker if the occasion presents itself – it could include someone working late to finish a report, or someone attending an unusual site visit. It is therefore important for risks to be assessed before the situation arises, so precautions can be taken if needed.
Employers need to be fully aware of all loneworking going on in their organisation, whether it is undertaken by people who are employed directly (such as the sales force) or by people who work on the premises (such as cleaners).
Every loneworking situation will be different, but some common issues to consider are:
• Can the loneworker get to and from the workplace safely? Is the work being carried out in a confined space?
• What sort of work is being undertaken? Are loneworkers dealing with the public, where they might face aggressive behaviour? Will they carry heavy items, or work in outdoor weather conditions?
• Where does the work take place? Where work is carried out off site, the employer will have little control over first aid provision and emergency procedures. Does work take place at height?
• When does the work take place? Are there any increased risks related to the time of day, such as pub closing time or rush hour?
• What, if any, work equipment do they need to use? Use of electrical equipment or machinery will increase the risk. Check that they have been trained how to use it.
• Who are the people working alone? You will need to consider their experience, health and fitness, and general state of mind. Where young people or new and expectant mothers are concerned, the risks will be increased.