Lone and mobile workers

Lone and mobile working needs to be given specific consideration by employers, the self-employed and contractors responsible for risk assessment.

In addition to normal work-related risks, the extra dangers posed to those who work on their own or with little or no close supervision, however long or short the periods of time, must be carefully considered and addressed.

Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision, whether that’s for the whole of the work period or just for short periods of time. They may work in fixed establishments or away from their fixed base (mobile) and therefore can be found in a wide range of situations.

The major difference that means lone workers may be more at risk of harm than those working with others is that if things go wrong (i.e. they’re injured or become unwell) it could be more difficult and take longer to get appropriate assistance.

Wherever the risks are high, alternative methods that avoid lone working should be found.

  • Ensure that those undertaking the risk assessment have a thorough understanding of the work to be done and that workers and safety representatives are consulted as part of the process.
  • Identify the inherent hazards of the locations and activities involved in the work. This will often be enough for the risk assessment to identify that lone working is not appropriate. For example, lone working shouldn’t ever be permitted if the work:

    - involves dangerous equipment and/or hazardous substances;

    - is to be carried out at an unsafe location, such as a quarry, construction site, estuary or tidal area, or wherever the terrain might be hazardous;

    - is to be done at height; and/or

    - requires an authorised permit to work, especially where special evacuation, recovery or rescue measures could be needed, e.g. work in confined spaces, high voltage electrical work or hot work.
  • Review each individual’s medical history and health surveillance records, as certain medical conditions could make them unsuitable for lone working.
  • Consider how easy it is for one person to get in and out of the location and what might happen in an emergency situation; Also think about whether assistance is needed in the handling of temporary access equipment, such as portable ladders and trestles.
  • Make sure that it’s within the capacity of one person to handle all plant, equipment substances, goods, livestock and people (i.e. customers and visitors) involved in the work.
  • Assess the risk of exposure to violence and aggression and, if lone working is deemed appropriate, provide suitable personal protective equipment, such as helmets, and apparatus designed to cause the assailant to desist, such as sprays and panic alarms.
  • Factor in the presence of any workers that might be more vulnerable due to a lack of experience or training.
  • Check that there is first aid provision for workers at third party premises and get mobile workers to carry a first aid kit suitable for treating minor injuries.
  • Record the risk assessment findings and develop and implement safe systems of work (SSOW).

    - Monitoring and emergency procedures should be built into the safe systems of work.
  • Inform workers of the risks and provide formal instruction and training for the work and the operation of the risk control measures, based on the safe system of work.
  • Provide specific training to ensure lone workers are suitably competent to carry out their role and self-supervise.
  • Make lone workers aware of their duties to cooperate and comply with the safety instructions and training they have been given, to take reasonable care of their own safety and that of others, and to report any matters requiring correction or review.
  • Maintain training records that include the employee’s signature to confirm they have received training and acknowledge what is required of them.
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The following are examples of hazards and safety issues that should be included in risk assessments for lone and mobile working.