The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines a lone worker as “Someone who works by themselves without close or direct supervision”. It is estimated that there are 8 million lone workers in the UK alone. Working on your own carries specific risks related to accidents and illness. Employers and employees need to be prepared for what actions to take during an emergency situation.
It must be considered that there are different types of lone workers. Someone sitting at home on a computer is in a completely different situation to a person who is working in a remote forest without supervision. However this does not mean that either group does not have its own set of risks. Below are some examples of the different types of lone workers:
Fixed base - Petrol stations, shops, gyms and leisure centres
Outside normal hours - Security staff, cleaners, maintenance workers
Delivery drivers - HGV, Postal and bike couriers
People who work at home - Office, customer services and small businesses
Agricultural - forestry workers, farmers and fisheries
Being a lone worker carries its own specific risks when compared to a person who works as a pair, or within a team. The obvious risk is that there is no one to rely on in a time of need when the lone worker could be injured or incapacitated. Underneath are the main risks a lone worker could face:
Not covered by other qualified first aiders
May not be able to call the emergency services
Unable to deal with injuries e.g. major / catastrophic bleeding
The good news is that due to technological advances there are now often innovative ways to help protect lone workers from the above risks.
It is the duty of the employer to protect the lone worker from the risks present within their job role. This does not mean that a person should not work alone, but they will require adequate training and protection. Below are some examples of to how to ensure that a lone worker is safe:
Provide suitable equipment e.g. specialist first aid kit
Create risk assessments to identify hazards & implement control measures
The solution could be as simple as training the workforce to recognise the symptoms of major illnesses e.g. heart attacks and then the action to take next. Or it could be specific training on equipment that will need to be self applied during an emergency.
First Aid Kits
The British Standard (BS8599) generally has all the items needed to deal with most workplace emergencies. However many of the items could be deemed useless when you are trying to apply them to yourself because they are designed to be applied by a first aider.
One option is to create a risk assessment to identify what type of injuries may occur and then create specific first aid kits based on these requirements. Here are some examples of items that could be very useful during an emergency:
Easy to apply dressings - Velcro fastening instead of knots
Clothing shears - Sometimes difficult to remove clothing on your own
Resuscitation face shield - Helps the lone worker provide CPR to someone else
AED - Lone worker may benefit from other members of the public using the AED on themselves
Guidance leaflet / book containing symptoms & treatment of major illnesses
Any lone worker can be protected in their job role with adequate planning and preparation. Risk assessments are crucial in identifying the illnesses and injuries that could occur whilst working alone. From here the lone worker can be given the appropriate training and provided with the necessary equipment to deal with a medical emergency.