The top 4 risks of lone working
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic you are probably faced with managing more lone workers than ever before and more than likely this is a permanent change in your working practices.
You should be aware that lone workers need to be treated differently to other workers. This is because there will always be greater risks for lone workers without direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong. This article highlights the most common outdoor lone working hazards so you can consider how these should be reflected in your health & safety policies.
Lone workers are exposed to significant risk and need to be treated differently.
The latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) lone worker guidance “Lone working: Protecting those who work alone” highlights that the main risks facing a lone worker depend on their working environment, the risk level of their job, stress and other health factors.
Remember risks increase when working alone. Regardless of the industry in which they work, a lone worker is exposed to significant risk simply because they work alone. This is because lone workers behave differently compared to those working in teams, working unsupervised and without colleagues they inherently take more risks. If a lone worker does have an accident, this potentially could be compounded as they are alone without help at hand. In our article ‘Outdoor lone worker risks’ we identify 3 key points for you to consider and mitigate against to keep your lone workers safe.
LONE WORKING RISK TYPE 1: SLIPS, TRIPS AND FALLS
The number one risk type for outdoor lone workers is slips, trips and falls. The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) reports that 142 workers were killed in 2020/21 from such incidents, 35 (24%) were caused by falls from a height. Slips, trips or falls on the same level accounted for 33% of all non-fatal injuries reported under RIDDOR 2020/2. The construction sector reported 39 of the 142 fatalities, closely followed by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector which reported 34 fatalities.
Just this month, a roofing contractor was sentenced after an unpaid casual labourer fell through a skylight during a building renovation. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the work had not been properly planned and that there was a lack of training and experience in the supervision of others working at height. No preventable safety measures were in place and the labourer sustained multiple fractures and other injuries in a 5.5m fall.
“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply using correct control measures and following safe working practices. Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related injury and fatality in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known.”
LONE WORKING RISK TYPE 2: ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
Working outside in rugged, demanding locations means the job intrinsically carries higher risks due to the very nature of the work and the location. The location itself could be hazardous with inhospitable terrain, these environmental risks increasing the chances of slips, trips and falls for instance. In addition, the lone worker’s specific activities could be high risk including operating heavy machinery, working at height or inspecting/maintaining difficult to reach assets.
An obvious consequence of working in faraway sites is if there is an incident which causes harm, the lack of support and access to help may increase the impact of the incident. An injury that could be dealt with easily and quickly in a populated, urban environment suddenly becomes serious and potentially life threatening in an isolated place. This means that having the ability to communicate with someone should an incident occur is essential.
LONE WORKING RISK TYPE 3: WINTER AND HARSH WEATHER CONDITIONS
The tragic death of Ronald Alexander, a 74 year old security guard at a Wind Farm in Ayrshire resulted in two companies being fined a combined c£180,000 for breaching sections 2 and 3 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. The security guard died after being found lying face down and hypothermic, in deep snow, at a remote hillside in Ayrshire. During the court hearing for this case, it transpired that the location Ronald Alexander was protecting was known to have poor mobile signal and the site had no landline, so there were no reliable means of calling for help. In addition, the employer failed to ensure that there was a backup generator to ensure a welfare area with heat and light, despite it having failed on several occasions prior to this incident.
Winter working conditions, when there are shorter daylight hours and harsher weather conditions, directly affect outdoor lone workers particularly when there is ice or snow. During the winter season slip, trip and fall accidents increase as does the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.
Read our article: Highlighting cold weather risks: Frostbite and hypothermia
By simply carrying out these correct control measures and ensuring safe working practices at this site, this tragic event could have been avoided.
LONE WORKING RISK TYPE 4: TRANSPORT AND TRAVEL
Each year there are accidents in the workplace involving transport some of which result in people being killed. HSE statistics highlight that people are knocked down, run over or crushed by vehicles such as HGVs and tractors, plant and trailers. People also fall from vehicles when getting on or off, working at height, or when loading or unloading. Poor visibility due to darker winter days or wet and foggy conditions can increase the risk of incidents. Traveling alone or travelling unprepared in poor conditions increase risks. Lone workers typically travel to site alone, they may not see another person during their whole working day from leaving home in the morning to returning in the evening. You will also need to consider how winter weather could impact their daily travel.
Read our article: Winter weather considerations for outdoor lone workers
HOW CAN TRACKPLOT HELP?
By working alongside your workers to identify and reduce risks you can safeguard against many needless workplace injuries and deaths. We can be part of your health & safety procedures and measures to help you to provide a safe working environment.