Who is liable to protect lone workers?
If you have read our previous post on planning your return back to work after the easing of Coronavirus restrictions, you will know that we discussed the importance of identifying and assessing risks facing lone workers. It is recommended that robust site and worker specific risk assessments are conducted before workers begin working. In this article we look at who is liable if risks are not properly assessed and what preventable measures of control should be implemented to keep both employers and workers safe.
As an employer you will have collective responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of all your workers. This means making sure they are protected from anything that may cause harm and you must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
It is worth noting that this includes all employees, contractors and self employed staff who are working for you. Failure to protect those in your care can result in fines up to £1 million or in some extreme cases you could face prison sentences. You need to comply with your legal duties towards any lone workers you have under:
- the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
- the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (in the worst case scenarios)
To protect your business and your workers you must be able to follow the health and safety guidelines set out by HSE.
How to approach risk assessments
Inherently lone workers are more at risk than those working in a group simply because they work alone. HSE note in their latest lone worker guidance ‘Lone working: Protecting those who work alone’ that the main risks facing a lone worker depend on: their working environment, the risk level of their job, stress and mental health. They advise that as an employer you should consider the wide ranging factors that may cause further risk, both physically and mentally, on a case by case basis. To do this it is important that you create an open environment so that workers are able to discuss any underlying concerns or problems for you to consider in your assessment.
FISA’s ‘Guidance on Managing Health and Safety in Forestry’ states that to be a good site manager you must be able to combine your training, skills and experience when assessing site risks. Risk assessments must be conducted before any duties can be carried out. FISA advise that you should take workers on a ‘walk through’ of your outline risk assessment and discuss how the planned working methods and risk controls will actually work on that particular site. This will also allow for workers to give their feedback, share their experiences and knowledge, so that the controls put in place are agreed upon by all and are effective in mitigating the risks.
Implementing the appropriate control measures is just as important as assessing the risks. HSE advise that for your lone workers you should put in place a robust monitoring system which enables you to check in with them throughout their working day and, in the event there is a problem, you are able to assist. FISA highlight that even though you may not be with your lone workers during their working day you still have to supervise all health and safety and ensure that you know everyone is safe.
Considering COVID-19 specific risks, FISA have developed a specialised guidance ‘Working safely during Coronavirus in forestry’ and in this document they stress that any risk assessments carried out before the outbreak may no longer be relevant and will need reassessed. You will now also have to carry out COVID-19 specific risk assessments. It is important to re-evaluate your old risk assessments because there may be aspects that need changing, for example social distancing measures which impact on group working and travelling to and from site.
Individual lone worker responsibilities
As an employee or self employed contractor you still have a duty of care to yourself and others who may be affected by your work. All workers need to ensure that they comply with any reasonable instructions, policies and procedures set out by an employer. It is important that you stay up to date with all health and safety advice and request updates regularly.
FISA have highlighted that workers must undertake all relevant training and demonstrate you have completed it successfully (e.g. provide a log book); contribute your own knowledge and experience to risks assessments as well as understand and comply with them and all other site safety rules. HSE advise that as a lone worker you must provide constructive feedback to your employer on site practices and any changes that may provide further risks to yourself or others. This is extremely important as it will enable updates to be made quickly to ensure everyone is protected while working. Any incidents or near misses on site should be quickly reported and logged to inform future updates.
The Coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of discussing any health conditions you have with your employer. HSE advise that whether it be an underlying physical condition, making you a ‘higher risk’ worker, or your mental health, which impacts on stress and your ability to cope with the changes, both are equally valid reasons and should be raised so that your employer can help you. Lone working can be difficult and your health influences your ability to carry out your tasks well.
How Trackplot can help
Health and safety has become a real focus over the last few months. Creating a sensible approach to health and safety requires sound policies supported by practical actions. At Trackplot we are here to help you provide a safe working environment. We can use your risk assessments to scope a lone worker solution fit for your business operations.
Our lone worker solution enables lone workers to check in with you regularly so you know they are safe. If the lone worker is incapacitated or unconscious the system provides alerts so the incident can be escalated and the appropriate action taken.