TechSP RDN LicCIPD
DenMed Training and Consultancy
Shirley, Solihull, W Midlands
Jane Bonehill is an IOSH Technician Safety Practitioner (TechSP). The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is Europe's leading body for Health and Safety professionals. Jane holds office on a range of Health and Safety advisory committees, has produced a series of Health and Safety advice sheets and takes part in the European Week for Safety and Health at Work; and she is a Licentiate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Jane recognises that behaviours affect Health and Safety, and that training is one approach to changing behaviours. She works with PCTs and general practices around the UK, giving presentations, delivering certificated training courses and providing consultancy to assist PHCTs in managing Health and Safety
The NHS definition of "working alone" (see Resource) refers to people who work by themselves without close or direct supervision. Employers are required to manage the additional Health and Safety risks that lone workers may be exposed to, just as they manage risks for all other employees.
Who are "lone workers"?
Potentially anybody who is employed, self-employed or contracted by the practice, including:
Often people work away from the practice, such as when carrying out home visits, or when members of staff sometimes work from home. In addition, staff may be in the practice alone at specific times of the day. When defining who are classed as lone workers, it is important to differentiate between people whose work activities are intended to be carried out without close supervision and those who may find themselves alone. However, it is good practice to consider the safety of all persons who are working alone, whether it is planned or not.
The law does not prohibit working alone except where specific legislation states that the hazards are too great for people to work unaccompanied. The specific legislation does not relate to general practice. However, general duties for lone workers exist under the following:
The responsibilities of employers to ensure the safety of lone workers are no different from those of employees who are closely supervised. Employers need to consider the specific hazards lone workers are exposed to and the risks involved.
Self-employed lone workers must identify the hazards and risks to themselves.
There is a general duty to carry out risk assessment for lone workers. This involves identifying hazards associated with the work: considering the risk factors, assessing the level of risk and determining safety measures aimed at removing or controlling the risk.
Potential hazards to lone workers
Factors to consider when assessing risks
A range of factors should be considered to determine how the lone worker might be at risk and to what extent:
Risks in working in patients' homes
Some of these factors will also relate to staff working from their own home.
Risks in working from home
Risks in working alone in the practice
The above factors provide a range of examples, but it is not an exhaustive list and you may want to consider others.
The aim of determining appropriate safety measures is to control the risks that the lone worker may be exposed to and ultimately protect that person from harm. There are a number of steps that can be taken, depending on the range of risk factors present. Risk controls may include:
Safety during home visits
Safety alone in the practice
Safety when working from home
Employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees while they are at work. This responsibility is the same for lone workers as for any other member of staff. In this article we have considered some of the additional hazards and risks involved in lone working. We have also looked at possible ways of reducing the risks by implementing appropriate safety measures.
What to do now …?
If any doubt exists about the safety of lone workers after the risk assessment has been carried out, then the activity should be prohibited.
For the NHS downloadable guidelines on lone working see: